Politics Headlines

Official White House Photo by Tia DufourBy KENDALL KARSON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Republicans are suddenly adjusting their plans for the national convention with less than three months until the event, saying they are moving President Trump's acceptance speech out of Charlotte, N.C., amid a standoff with the state's Democratic governor over restrictions to safely host a large-scale event in the midst of the coronavirus.

Trump tweeted late Tuesday that due to the escalating feud with Gov. Roy Cooper, "We are now forced to seek another State to host the 2020 Republican National Convention."

A Republican National Committee official further clarified Trump's abrupt announcement, saying that the "celebration of the president’s acceptance of the Republican nomination" will be in another city. But the official added, "should the governor allow more than 10 people in a room, we still hope to conduct the official business of the convention in Charlotte."

The city and the RNC are locked in a contract that was signed more than two years ago, requiring the convention to be held in Charlotte. The event is scheduled for Aug. 24-27.

Trump laid blame for the sudden change of plans squarely on Cooper, but the governor has maintained that he is prioritizing public health over politics.

"It’s unfortunate they never agreed to scale down and make changes to keep people safe. Protecting public health and safety during this pandemic is a priority," Cooper responded in his own tweet.

Party officials are eyeing Nashville, Tennessee, as a potential alternative to host the marquee event in August, with a trip planned for later this week, either on Thursday or Friday, a Republican familiar with the discussions told to ABC News. Politico first reported the trip.

Other cities under consideration are Las Vegas, Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida, as well as venues in Georgia. Vice President Mike Pence also previously floated Florida, Georgia and Texas as potential alternative hosts and West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice reached out to the White House and the RNC with an invitation to hold the event in his state, according to a local ABC affiliate.

All three Republican governors from the states mentioned by Pence welcomed the opportunity to host the convention. But one Republican governor is taking a different approach.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, when asked about the opportunity, was far more hesitant, saying in a Fox News interview on Wednesday, "I don't know where we will be several months from now. But this would not be something that we think that we would volunteer to do."

Trump's tweet comes amid stalled discussions with North Carolina leaders, and after RNC officials gave Cooper a deadline of June 3 to approve the party's outline for a safe, yet "full scale" convention.

Part of the RNC's plans for Trump's nominating celebration involved 19,000 delegates, alternate delegates, staff, volunteers, elected officials and guests inside the Spectrum Center, and "full hotels and restaurants and bars at capacity."

Earlier on Tuesday, Cooper rebuffed the request, telling the RNC in a letter, "The people of North Carolina do not know what the status of COVID-19 will be in August, so planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity."

"We are happy to continue talking with you about the a scaled-down convention would look like and we still await your proposed plan for that," he continued.

In the past week, national party leaders and North Carolina officials took turns outlining their visions for what the convention could look like in a flurry of letters. The back-and-forth was triggered by the president, who hamstrung convention planning after threatening early last week to pull the convention from Charlotte if "full attendance" won't be allowed.

Discussions between aides to Cooper and the RNC broke down after a Friday conversation between Cooper, Trump, RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, and Marcia Lee Kelly, the president and CEO of the convention, in which Republicans wanted a guarantee of a "full arena." Cooper, who is contending with rising coronavirus cases in his state, said on Tuesday that would be "very unlikely."

"Neither public health officials nor I will risk the health and safety of North Carolinians by providing the guarantee you seek," he wrote.

After Cooper's latest exchange, top Republicans assured that their preference was to keep the quadrennial event in Charlotte, at least only part of it.

"We hope to still conduct the business of our convention in Charlotte, but we have an obligation to our delegates and nominee to begin visiting the the multiple cities and states who have reached out in recent days about hosting an historic event to show that America is open for business," McDaniel said.

With eyes now on Nashville, Tennessee's Republican governor opened the door for the party to take the unprecedented step of moving locations in such a short period of time.

"I can tell them that Nashville is the best place in America to have a convention. And we certainly would be interested in welcoming that to our city," Gov. Bill Lee said.

The mayor of Nashville's office weighed in, too, but said they will not actively lobby to bring the event to the city.

"We're not surprised that any national convention would look at us," Chris Song, a spokesperson for the mayor said. "We have no plans to use our limited public funds to recruit this convention at this time."

But even with Trump stepping up his initial threat to an explicit declaration that he's looking elsewhere, auxiliary plans are still only in their early stages.

"We are aware of the interest from Gov. Lee's Office. We have not had any official contact with the RNC at this time," Butch Spyridon, the president and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., said in a statement to ABC News.

Lee also told reporters earlier on Tuesday, "There's been very little conversation."

The Republicans' approach to the convention -- drawing a hard line that a bustling, in-person event is a must -- differs from their Democratic counterparts, who are more open to changing the event's format to adjust to the ongoing health crisis that is expected to persist through August.

Democrats, after rescheduling their initial gathering from July to the week of Aug. 17, are still remaining officially coy about how they plan to proceed. But the party is considering contingency options for the event, and last month, national Democrats paved the way for remote voting, by allowing delegates to partake even if they don't attend the event in-person -- potentially shifting the convention closer to a virtual format.

Planning for both nominating events, which bookend the primary season, is a significant undertaking that takes years to organize and typically attracts thousands of the party's rank-and-file and supporters.

But since the onset of the public health crisis, organizers for both conventions have been faced with unparalleled circumstances and forced to recalibrate their best-laid plans on the fly.

Republicans, meanwhile, have consistently kept a public posture that their convention is "full steam ahead" and that a virtual convention is not on the table, since having an in-person event is inscribed in their party rules.

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper gives a press conference at the Pentagon, June 3, 2020, in Arlington, Va. - (ABC News)By ELIZABETH MCLAUGHLIN and LUIS MARTINEZ, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday called the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman "a horrible crime" and called for the officers involved to "be held accountable for his murder."

It was the first time that the secretary addressed Floyd's death, which occurred more than a week ago on May 25, and the nationwide protests over racial inequality in America ever since.

“With great sympathy, I want to extend the deepest of condolences to the family and friends of George Floyd, for me and the department," Esper said during a Pentagon briefing. "Racism is real in America, and we must all do our very best to recognize it, to confront it, and to eradicate it."

The secretary also said that he does not support the deployment of active duty military troops on city streets, as President Donald Trump has threatened to order, saying the National Guard is best suited for providing support to local law enforcement.

He called the use of active duty forces "a matter of last resort" and said he does not support invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807, which allows the president to deploy active duty troops within the United States under limited circumstances.

“We are not in one of those situations now,” Esper said.

The secretary has faced criticism for his handling of the military's role in responding to the civil unrest that swept the country after Floyd's killing.

A statement by Esper to the force on Tuesday night largely focused on the military's role in defending the Constitution and staying apolitical "in these turbulent days." That same night, the Washington Post reported that senior Pentagon officials had directed the military service chiefs to keep quiet about the issues, despite some expressing interest in responding.

Esper was also called out for urging states "to dominate the battle space" during a Monday call with President Donald Trump and governors -- a recording of which was obtained by ABC News.

Two retired four-star generals took the rare step of publicly condemning Esper's comments, arguing the language was inappropriate to describe the current situation. And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed concerns that the secretary's words could be seen as laying the groundwork for the invocation of the Insurrection Act, according to a former senior administration official.

While the president has threatened the use of the military to quell protests that have turned violent, so far it has been the task for thousands of National Guard members to assist state and local law enforcement operations, not active duty troops.

Still, earlier this week, elements of the 82nd Airborne Division, along with active duty military police units from Fort Bragg, Fort Drum and Fort Riley, staged at Joint Base Andrews outside of the nation's capital in case they were requested.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.


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rarrarorro/iStockBy ALEXANDER MALLIN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whose appointment of Robert Mueller established the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, faced a grilling from Senate Republicans Wednesday over new revelations regarding the probe’s origins that have drawn significant political scrutiny in recent months.

"I do not consider the investigation to be corrupt,” Rosenstein said in the hearing. “But I certainly understand the President’s frustration given the outcome which was in face there was no evidence of conspiracy between Trump campaign advisors and Russians.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has said Rosenstein's hearing will be just the first in a series of public inquiries of officials who had direct involvement in investigating whether members of the Trump campaign may have colluded with Russians who meddled in the 2016 election. Democrats have argued Graham's efforts are part of a fishing expedition by Republicans to obscure Russia's role in 2016 and support unfounded claims by President Donald Trump that he was personally spied on and was a victim of a 'coup attempt' by Obama Administration holdovers.

Graham pressed Rosenstein over his role in signing off on an application for continuing surveillance on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

A review by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz of how those applications were handled found significant errors and material omissions by FBI agents involved in the process, even as Horowitz said he believed the Russia investigation as a whole was not improper.

In January, the Justice Department said that two of the four so-called 'FISA applications' for surveillance of Page, including the final renewal application signed by Rosenstein, lacked enough information to establish probable cause and thus were invalid.

 "Every application that I approved appeared to be justified based on the facts it alleged, and the FBI was supposed to be following protocols to ensure that every fact was verified," Rosenstein said. "Whenever agents or prosecutors make serious mistakes or engage in misconduct, the Department of Justice must take remedial action. And if existing policies fall short, those policies need to be changed."

"If you knew then what you know now, would you have signed that warrant?" Graham asked Rosenstein during the hearing.

"No," Rosenstein said in response.

Rosenstein resigned from the department in April 2019 having assisted Attorney General William Barr in the release of the special counsel's report, after both concluded there was "not sufficient evidence" to pursue obstruction of justice charges against President Trump.

Democrats in the hearing sought to defend Mueller’s conclusions and in a testy exchange, Sen. Dick Durbin attacked Republicans for holding a hearing on the Mueller investigation in the midst of a global pandemic and social crisis.

“This is the priority of the Senate Judiciary Committee today,” Durbin, D-Ill., said. “We’re taking it up because it has become a bloody shirt on the right.”

Graham shot back, saying information revealed in recent months paints a "sad episode in the history of the FBI."

"There was no 'there' there in August of 2017," Graham said, in reference to suspicions of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians. "And it may not bother you but it bothers us and I hope it will bother the American people and we'll fix it."

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Richard Rodriguez/Getty ImagesBy LAUREN KING, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- In a rare public statement, former President George W. Bush said he and former first lady Laura Bush were anguished by the killing of George Floyd and disturbed by the injustice and fear.

"Yet we have resisted the urge to speak out, because this is not the time for us to lecture. It is time for us to listen. It is time for America to examine our tragic failures -- and as we do, we will also see some of our redeeming strengths," the statement said.

In a video that went viral, a Minneapolis police officer, identified as Derek Chauvin, pinned Floyd to the ground on Memorial Day after apprehending him outside a convenience store for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill. As his knee was on Floyd's neck for nearly 10 minutes, Floyd could be heard saying, "I can't breathe."

Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder. All four officers involved have been fired and investigations are ongoing.

Protests that began in Minnesota have multiplied across the country and around the world. While many have featured peaceful demonstrators marching -- sometimes with police officers -- some have grown violent and destructive, prompting cities to establish curfews and governors to call up the National Guard.

On Monday, as protesters in Lafayette Park next to the White House were being cleared from the area, President Donald Trump came to the Rose Garden to call himself the "law and order" president, saying "domestic terrorism" was to blame for the unrest.

"As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property," he said. "We will end it now."

Earlier that day, he also called on governors to use their National Guard military police units to "dominate the streets" and threatened to deploy the active duty military if governors failed to use the National Guard more forcefully.

In his five-paragraph statement, Bush went on to talk about the "shocking failure" that many African Americans, especially young men, are harassed and threatened in the U.S.

"It is a strength when protesters, protected by responsible law enforcement, march for a better future. This tragedy -- in a long series of similar tragedies -- raises a long overdue question: How do we end systemic racism in our society? The only way to see ourselves in a true light is to listen to the voices of so many who are hurting and grieving. Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America -- or how it becomes a better place," Bush wrote.

Former President Barack Obama published an essay Monday on Medium addressing the ongoing protests and how he thinks people can move forward. The "bottom line," he wrote, is that "if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform."

The next moment in American history can be "a real turning point," Obama wrote, if "we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action."

Bush wrote, "America’s greatest challenge has long been to unite people of very different backgrounds into a single nation of justice and opportunity. The doctrine and habits of racial superiority, which once nearly split our country, still threaten our Union."

"Many doubt the justice of our country, and with good reason. Black people see the repeated violation of their rights without an urgent and adequate response from American institutions," he continued. "We know that lasting justice will only come by peaceful means. Looting is not liberation, and destruction is not progress. But we also know that lasting peace in our communities requires truly equal justice. The rule of law ultimately depends on the fairness and legitimacy of the legal system. And achieving justice for all is the duty of all."

"This will require a consistent, courageous, and creative effort. We serve our neighbors best when we try to understand their experience. We love our neighbors as ourselves when we treat them as equals, in both protection and compassion. There is a better way -- the way of empathy, and shared commitment, and bold action, and a peace rooted in justice. I am confident that together, Americans will choose the better way," Bush concluded.

Read the statement in full on the George W. Bush Presidential Center website.

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Erin Scott-Pool/Getty ImagesBy QUINN OWEN, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- A doctor contracted by the Department of Homeland Security to advise on detention health conditions appeared before Congress on Tuesday to personally criticize the Trump administration as COVID-19 continues to spread through civil immigration detention centers.

Dr. Scott Allen, an independent health expert and medical school professor, told lawmakers that the novel coronavirus' persistence in Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities was in part due to "some gaping holes" in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

"And the fact is -- in the real world -- use of those guidelines has been associated with failure," Allen told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He said the CDC has not underscored the importance of reducing the detained population and its guidance on testing remains insufficient.

"I think we're underutilizing some of our best tools," he said. "We need to get more aggressive with our testing strategies."

ICE officials have repeatedly noted their reliance on CDC guidelines in the face of pressure to reduce its jailed population.

“ICE continues to re-evaluate all individuals in their custody who make up vulnerable populations and they’ve been modifying their practices based on recommendations from the CDC,” acting Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told reporters in April.

MORE: New allegations pressure ICE to release immigrant detainees
Dana Gold, a senior attorney with the whistleblower rights group Government Accountability Project, represented Allen and specified that the doctor was not speaking on behalf of DHS.

Allen has repeatedly voiced personal criticism of immigration detention conditions with legal assistance by the group that represents and advises whistleblowers to help shield them from retaliation. He first raised alarms about the threat of COVID-19 in a March letter to Congress.

"Now the flames are growing," he wrote in testimony submitted to the committee Tuesday.

Recent projections from a study in the Journal of Urban Health, which looked at 111 ICE detention facilities, show coronavirus outbreaks can potentially spread to nearly every detainee and overwhelm local hospitals. Two detainees have died in ICE custody after contracting the disease.

More than a quarter of detainees tested by ICE came back positive and are currently monitored or isolated, according to the agency. Out of the nearly 26,000 people held by ICE on an average day in recent months, at least 900 deemed to be at high risk of infection have been released.

The number of people held in ICE detention has dropped by half since 2019, driven largely by a decline in unauthorized crossings at the southern border and the implementation of new rapid removal protocols by Border Patrol. Deportations and other administrative removals by ICE also have not stopped.

Earlier in Tuesday's Senate hearing, the head of ICE deportation operations said the agency does not test immigrant detainees before removing them unless they show COVID-19 symptoms or a prior agreement with the receiving country exists.

"We're not aware of any positive cases that were showing symptoms or known to be positive that have been deported," said Henry Lucero, the head of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations. "We're trying to do more testing of these individuals at removal."

Novel coronavirus infections in people who do not show symptoms while still contagious are a major challenge to stemming the spread of disease, according to the CDC.

The chief public health official of Guatemala -- one of the Central American countries which has urged a halt on removals -- suggested in April that U.S. officials allowed infected patients to be deported.

"We automatically evaluate them here and test them and many of them have come back positive," Public Health Minister Hugo Monroy said at the time.

Lucero could not immediately provide the number of countries that had testing agreements with ICE. He also said the agency has detained some inmates as transfers from state and local correctional facilities despite knowing they had COVID-19.

A lawyer arguing on behalf of ICE before a federal court in Florida said asymptomatic detainees were not tested for COVID-19 before being transferred to another holding center, The Miami Herald reported last week.

Judges across the country have ordered the release of nearly 400 as the cries for relief continue. Detainees have launched legal challenges, pleading for the alternatives ICE uses in certain cases.

One barrier for some immigrant detainees is the inability to pay bonds even if they qualify for parole release. A federal judge ruled last week that immigration authorities in Maryland must consider a detainee's ability to pay when setting bond amounts.

"The constitutional problems with the immigration court's bond procedures made it almost guaranteed that an immigrant would have to sit in jail, without the government having to prove why they should not have their freedom," said Nick Taichi Steiner, staff attorney at the ACLU of Maryland.

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uschools/iStockBy BENJAMIN SIEGEL, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- The Congressional Black Caucus is at work on a package of reform bills the House could advance later this month in response to the death of George Floyd, Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., the chair of the caucus, told ABC News.

A federal chokehold ban, a review of police training standards and a reform of the legal doctrine that shields police officers from legal liability are some of the proposals circulating among the group, which House Democratic leaders have tasked with leading the chamber’s response to Floyd’s death and the ongoing protests.

"We are going to do everything we can, while the nation has a height of awareness on the issue, to pass transformative legislation," said Bass. "We want to make sure that, in this time period, we are very visible so that African Americans around the country understand that this is our experience as well."

Republicans and Democrats have been united in condemning the events leading up to Floyd’s death, but any broad and rapid compromise on policing reforms are unlikely on Capitol Hill -- particularly in an election year when lawmakers are already struggling to agree on how to address the ongoing coronavirus and economic crisis.

Still, the caucus hopes to use the moment to promote new ideas for policing reform, as well as proposals that have stalled in committee and previous sessions of Congress. The effort could also lead to action in 2021 depending on the results of the presidential election.

"Of course it is a responsibility of all of us to take the time to heal. But we are looking to them for their values-based, sad experience, and their leadership in terms of legislation," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said of the caucus on Tuesday.

Former vice president Joe Biden on Tuesday endorsed a federal police chokehold ban from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., calling it a "down payment on what is long overdue."

Jeffries first proposed the measure in 2015 after the death of Eric Garner. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the topic in September 2019, but the proposal has yet to advance out of committee.

On Monday, Sen. Cory Booker D-N.J., along with Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., called for reforming the federal statute governing police misconduct and the qualified immunity legal doctrine, which has been used to shield police officers and other government officials from some lawsuits.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, a senior member of the caucus, plans to reintroduce the Law Enforcement Trust Integrity Act of 2015, a measure that would overhaul police training standards and incentivize oversight and accountability reforms.

Beyond the caucus, Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash, of Michigan, said he planned to introduce a bill to end qualified immunity and allow victims of excessive police force to sue officers in court, a proposal also backed by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.

"All of us want to get at the root causes of the lack of police accountability and want to be able to hold police accountable in court for their misconduct," Bass told ABC News, adding that lawmakers want to "end the careers of abusive officers" and prevent fired officers accused of using excessive force from being hired by other police departments.

While Republicans have supported plans for police brutality hearings and condemned the actions of the Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s death, some have also called for more attention to the outbreaks of violence and looting amid the largely peaceful protests across the country.

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the former ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler that his committee should look into anti-facist 'antifa' protestors and their activities in addition to any examination of police brutality. Nadler plans to hold a hearing on new criminal justice proposals and police brutality as soon as next week, according to aides.

In the Senate, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has pledged to hold a hearing on policing and use of force, while Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, plans to push to end a Pentagon program to transfer military equipment to American police departments, a move endorsed by a top aide to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. on Twitter.

Bass predicted that the House will have legislation ready for passage by the end of the month, when the chamber is expected to return to Washington for votes.

"This is a unique time that is allowing us to come together because the people are angry," said Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, a member of the caucus who was pepper-sprayed at a protest in Columbus, Ohio, over the weekend, "They’re crying out for answers."

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uschools/iStockBy BENJAMIN SIEGEL, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- The Congressional Black Caucus is at work on a package of reform bills the House could advance later this month in response to the death of George Floyd, Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., the chair of the caucus, told ABC News.

A federal chokehold ban, a review of police training standards and a reform of the legal doctrine that shields police officers from legal liability are some of the proposals circulating among the group, which House Democratic leaders have tasked with leading the chamber’s response to Floyd’s death and the ongoing protests.

"We are going to do everything we can, while the nation has a height of awareness on the issue, to pass transformative legislation," said Bass. "We want to make sure that, in this time period, we are very visible so that African Americans around the country understand that this is our experience as well."

Republicans and Democrats have been united in condemning the events leading up to Floyd’s death, but any broad and rapid compromise on policing reforms are unlikely on Capitol Hill -- particularly in an election year when lawmakers are already struggling to agree on how to address the ongoing coronavirus and economic crisis.

Still, the caucus hopes to use the moment to promote new ideas for policing reform, as well as proposals that have stalled in committee and previous sessions of Congress. The effort could also lead to action in 2021 depending on the results of the presidential election.

"Of course it is a responsibility of all of us to take the time to heal. But we are looking to them for their values-based, sad experience, and their leadership in terms of legislation," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said of the caucus on Tuesday.

Former vice president Joe Biden on Tuesday endorsed a federal police chokehold ban from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., calling it a "down payment on what is long overdue."

Jeffries first proposed the measure in 2015 after the death of Eric Garner. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the topic in September 2019, but the proposal has yet to advance out of committee.

On Monday, Sen. Cory Booker D-N.J., along with Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., called for reforming the federal statute governing police misconduct and the qualified immunity legal doctrine, which has been used to shield police officers and other government officials from some lawsuits.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, a senior member of the caucus, plans to reintroduce the Law Enforcement Trust Integrity Act of 2015, a measure that would overhaul police training standards and incentivize oversight and accountability reforms.

Beyond the caucus, Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash, of Michigan, said he planned to introduce a bill to end qualified immunity and allow victims of excessive police force to sue officers in court, a proposal also backed by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.

"All of us want to get at the root causes of the lack of police accountability and want to be able to hold police accountable in court for their misconduct," Bass told ABC News, adding that lawmakers want to "end the careers of abusive officers" and prevent fired officers accused of using excessive force from being hired by other police departments.

While Republicans have supported plans for police brutality hearings and condemned the actions of the Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s death, some have also called for more attention to the outbreaks of violence and looting amid the largely peaceful protests across the country.

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the former ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler that his committee should look into anti-facist 'antifa' protestors and their activities in addition to any examination of police brutality. Nadler plans to hold a hearing on new criminal justice proposals and police brutality as soon as next week, according to aides.

In the Senate, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has pledged to hold a hearing on policing and use of force, while Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, plans to push to end a Pentagon program to transfer military equipment to American police departments, a move endorsed by a top aide to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. on Twitter.

Bass predicted that the House will have legislation ready for passage by the end of the month, when the chamber is expected to return to Washington for votes.

"This is a unique time that is allowing us to come together because the people are angry," said Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, a member of the caucus who was pepper-sprayed at a protest in Columbus, Ohio, over the weekend, "They’re crying out for answers."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- BY: ELIZABETH MCLAUGHLIN and LUIS MARTINEZ

The Pentagon is defending Defense Secretary Mark Esper's use of the term "battle space," following criticism from retired military officers and congressional leadership about the term and the possible domestic deployment of the active duty military.

In a call with President Donald Trump and governors on Monday -- a recording of which was obtained by ABC News, Esper urged states "to dominate the battle space" so that civil unrest "dissipates and we can get back to the right normal."

Over the last week, thousands of Americans have peacefully protested systemic racial inequality sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. But looting and riots in many American cities have caused states to activate the National Guard to support law enforcement -- with the president threatening to deploy the active duty military to quell the violence.

Two retired four-star generals took the rare step of publicly condemning Esper's comments on Monday, arguing the language was inappropriate to describe the current situation.

Congrats to @EsperDoD for making his mark in history.

Today he both ensured his name will be into countless future articles of how not to act in civil-military relations,
and jumped much higher up the ranking list of worst Secretary of Defenses in history. https://t.co/sIX5pZcj43

— Peter W. Singer (@peterwsinger) June 1, 2020


"The 'battle space' of America???" tweeted ret. Army Gen. Tony Thomas, who led U.S. Special Operations Command. " Not what America needs to hear...ever, unless we are invaded by an adversary or experience a constitutional failure...ie a Civil War..."

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey expressed a similar sentiment, tweeting, "America is not a battleground. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy."

America’s military, our sons and daughters, will place themselves at risk to protect their fellow citizens. Their job is unimaginably hard overseas; harder at home. Respect them, for they respect you. America is not a battleground. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy. #BeBetter

— GEN(R) Martin E. Dempsey (@Martin_Dempsey) June 1, 2020


Asked about Esper's use of the term "battle space," a senior defense official, who declined to be identified, told Pentagon reporters on Tuesday that the "DOD often communicates in a parlance unique to the profession of arms."

"He was using the terms that we have," the official said. "Nothing should be read into the use of that term to denote anything other than it's a common term to denote the area we are operating in."

Esper served 10 years in the U.S. Army on active duty and another 11 years in the National Guard and Army Reserve.

A former senior administration official told ABC News that congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have privately expressed concerns about Esper's words because they could be seen as laying the groundwork for the invocation of the Insurrection Act of 1807, which allows the president to deploy active duty troops within the United States under limited circumstances. The president would have to invoke the act because the active duty military -- unlike the National Guard -- is barred from carrying out law enforcement activities under Posse Comitatus Act.

On Tuesday, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called on Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to testify before his committee next week to explain the role they envision the U.S. military playing in response to protests.

He also told reporters that language like "battle space" is "deeply concerning in terms of how the U.S. military would be used for domestic law enforcement," though he had not personally spoken to Esper about it.

As of Tuesday, governors in 28 states and the District of Columbia had activated more than 20,400 National Guard members to assist state and local law enforcement operations, according to the National Guard.

But overnight, elements of the 82nd Airborne Division, along with active duty military police units from Fort Bragg, Fort Drum and Fort Riley, staged at Joint Base Andrews outside of the nation's capital in case they were requested, according to two U.S. officials.

"The decision to use active military forces in crowd control in the United States should only be made as a last resort," said ABC News analyst Mick Mulroy, a retired Marine and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East.

"The National Guard is fully capable and trained for these operations. They are from these communities and likely have been activated many times to support people after fires, hurricanes, or pandemics. Some of the people they helped are the ones protesting. Active Army and Marine Corps units are trained to fight our nation's enemies, not their fellow Americans."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- BY: ALEXANDER MALLIN and KATHERINE FAULDERS

Attorney General William Barr personally ordered the expansion of the security perimeter around Lafayette Park Monday just before President Donald Trump's visit to St. John's Episcopal Church, a senior DOJ official and senior White House official confirmed to ABC News.

The officials said that the decision to expand the perimeter was made either late Sunday night or early Monday morning based on vandalism that had been carried out against buildings in the area over the weekend.

When Barr was seen in Lafayette Park late Monday afternoon surveying the crowd prior to the aggressive push by law enforcement to clear the peaceful protesters out of the area, he was "surprised" that they had not yet been cleared out, the officials said.

One official said Barr, on his visit to the park, was told by a law enforcement official that members of the crowd were seen passing rocks between each other and that at least one bottle was thrown in Barr's direction while he was there.

The officials insisted that the decision was made independent of the president's walk to St. John's, which Barr and other senior Cabinet officials joined in.

The Washington Post first reported Barr's direct involvement in the decision, which has now drawn inquiries from Democratic lawmakers who were alarmed by videos showing law enforcement using gas to clear the area and in several instances hitting protesters and reporters in their path.

The officials declined to comment on whether Barr found the tactics used by law enforcement in clearing the area as appropriate, instead saying that Barr assumes that "typical crowd control measures" will be used in the face of resistance from protesters.

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iStock/krblokhin(WASHINGTON) -- BY: JOHN PARKINSON and ALLISON PECORIN

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer painted an ugly image of President Donald Trump "descending the dictatorial ladder" as he lay in bed at the White House Monday night with military helicopters flying above after having his photo taken at St. John's Episcopal Church.

"He probably wore out his remote control watching the clips of General Barr's victory over the unarmed in the battle of Lafayette Square," Schumer, D-N.Y., scoffed. "Then he reveled in the sounds of Black Hawks flying overhead joyously retweeting scores of preening sycophants."

Attorney General William Barr visited Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. to survey law enforcement prior to the president’s church visit, and also joined Trump and several other White House officials on his journey across the park to the church Monday evening.

With reports that law enforcement used tear gas to disperse peaceful protestors in advance of Trump’s visit to the church, Schumer also called on the Pentagon’s inspector general to lead an investigation into how the military was used at Lafayette Park in tandem with the president’s photo opportunity.

"After the gas, came the horses -- a modern-day cavalry was clearing the battlefield. The purpose, so that President Trump could wave a Bible, not read a Bible, not even his Bible, as a prop," Schumer said. "It was appalling. It was an abuse of presidential power. It may well have been illegal and it was blatantly unconstitutional."

Moments earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell applauded local, state and federal officials for working to "restore peace" amid raging civil unrest across the country, maintaining his disdain for violence associated with the protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

During remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, McConnell called for a distinction between peaceful protests and "violent riots."

"The former is a cherished constitutional right that ever single citizen should support. The latter is an unacceptable scourge that state and local leaders should have ended days ago," McConnell, R-Ky., said. "So I want to thank federal state and local leaders who are taking seriously the obligation to restore peace, protect the innocent and stop this senseless violence."

The Kentucky Republican, who is up for reelection to a sixth term this fall, called for the nation to unite not just against the killing of Floyd but also against those who are protesting violently.

"Our nation is united in horror and opposition to the violent killing of Mr. Floyd. We are united," McConnell reaffirmed. "It is well past time that we also unite on the side of peace on our streets and peace in our community."

"We need to unite against these violent rioters who only seek to aggrandize themselves and further damage a nation that needs healing," McConnell continued.

Schumer also condemned violent protest methods but argued that while thousands of protesters have been detained, only one of the four police officers involved in Floyd's killing has been arrested.

"It does not excuse the violence in anyway but explains in part why so many Americans are angry," Schumer said. "There is accountability for every day citizens and protesters when they break the law, but there isn't always accountability for those in law enforcement when it does the same."

As the Senate leaders squabbled in the chamber, Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham announced he plans to hold a hearing on June 16 to examine the death of Floyd and police misconduct in the United States, promising to "take a deep dive" into the issue in two weeks.

"The topic for the country is what to do after the death of Mr. Floyd, and what does the death of Mr. Floyd mean?" Graham, R-S.C., said at the outset of a hearing he chaired examining the country’s operation of its prisons during the coronavirus pandemic. "Well, it’s a long-overdue wake-up call to the country that there are too any of these cases where African American men die in police custody under fairly brutal circumstances. It’s clear to me that policing and among men in the African American community is a topic that needs to be discussed and acted upon, and I expect this committee to do its part."

Graham, who has often counted himself as one of the president’s top defenders and golfing buddies, said he has consulted with the panel’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and they’ve penciled in June 16 for a hearing, adding that’s as "quick as we could do it."

"I’d like to get to the root cause of it. Mr. Floyd’s case is outrageous on its face, but I think it speaks to a broader issue," Graham said in stark contrast to the president’s rhetoric on the turmoil. "We just need to get to the bottom of what happened and what we can do to fix it. And the answer is pretty obvious: Community policing is the anecdote to this, where there is a sense of community among the police and those that are being policed. I don’t know how to make that a reality but we’ll have a hearing along those lines."

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin lamented that "America still lives in the shadows of its original sin: slavery, and the racism that spawned it."

"Is our system of justice in America so infected by racism that it cannot function in a manner consistent with our democratic values? That’s as basic as it gets in a democratic society," Durbin, D-Illinois, said. "Is our president mobilizing our military to suppress dissent in a manner inconsistent with the constitution and never seen before in history? That is a question that goes to the very heart of our democracy and our role as an equal branch of government."

Durbin urged Graham "not to overlook the fact" that those questions "really go to the heart of our democracy" -- arguing that many other issues the committee plans to examine in the coming days are "irrelevant."

The committee has already scheduled oversight hearings with Rod Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general, into Crossfire Hurricane, the code name for the counterintelligence investigation undertaken by the FBI in 2016 and 2017 into links between Trump associates and Russian officials, as well as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s notice and takedown process for copyright holders to get infringing user-uploaded material removed from websites.

"What is relevant is the question as to how America can be safe and still hold to its democratic values and principles," Durbin contended.

Feinstein said the ongoing civil unrest across the country is "one of those horrible anomalies about life and when it happens it’s so graphic and so real and you can’t control it."

"There’s desperate need to bring people together to show the sameness among us, not to illustrate the badness," Feinstein, D-Calif., said. "You had a police officer responsible for the death of a victim and people reacted, but now what has to happen, the message is clearly sent, what has to happen is we should take a look. We are going to holding hearings."

After days of protests, looting and a hardened police crackdown on the civil unrest, Feinstein said "the message has been transmitted."

"I think they want all of us to work to bring people together, to stop the division and to reform police practices wherever necessary to prevent this kind of thing from ever happening again," she said.

Senate Democrats are also introducing a resolution they will attempt to pass affirming the constitutional rights of Americans, while noting that "violence and looting are unlawful, unacceptable and contrary to the purpose of peaceful protests."

The measure, which is non-binding and unlikely to garner sufficient GOP support, explicitly condemns Trump "for ordering federal officers to use gas and rubber bullets against the Americans who were peaceably protesting in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC on the night of June 1, 2020, thereby violating the constitutional rights of those peaceful protestors."

Given the political divide in Washington, lawmakers expressed doubt that reforms can be achieved to satisfy the needs of the dark moment.

"There’s time, but I don’t know if there’s a will, particularly among Republican leadership," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., bemoaned.

On Antifa, Graham said he’s "sure there’s a part they play, and we’ll try to find out exactly how organized this violence is."

"Most protestors are out on the street to lend their voice for change and the rioting and the looting is not helping the cause at all and it’s got to come to an end," Graham said.

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iStock/FourOaks(WASHINGTON) -- BY: LIBBY CATHEY

When President Donald Trump threatened Monday to use the active duty military to deal with nationwide violent protests over the last week, he was suggesting he might invoke a law more than 200 years old.

"If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them," he said in the White House Rose Garden.

To actually do so, he would need to employ what's known as the Insurrection Act of 1807.

Here are the basics:

What is the Insurrection Act?

Signed into law by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807, the Insurrection Act empowers the American president and commander in chief to deploy military troops within the U.S. in particular circumstances, if they believe it is necessary to quell an "insurrection" that threatens a state or its residents.

It's essentially a legal key that unlocks the door to use federal military forces -- whether through federalizing the National Guard or calling in "Title X forces" to settle civil unrest.

The exception to the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prohibits active-duty troops from being deployed to U.S. states for routine use as police forces, is an important and expansive power granted to the president.

When has it been invoked?

The Insurrection Act has rarely been invoked in the 213 years it's been on the books -- but in modern times, presidents have typically assumed the power to deal with the American agony of racial conflict, even relying on the provision to uphold federal civil rights in the Deep South.

In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower called on the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division to safely escort nine black students into Little Rock Central High School after the Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus, using the Arkansas National Guard under the guise of maintaining peace, tried to prevent the students from entering the school.

President John F. Kennedy invoked the Insurrection Act in 1962 and 1963 to send federal troops to Mississippi and Alabama to enforce civil rights laws. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions to Detroit when deadly riots broke out between police and residents and again invoked the law in 1968 in response to protests sparked by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

And in 1992, President George H.W. Bush responded to a request from Gov. Pete Wilson of California to help quell rioting in Los Angeles after the acquittal of the four LAPD officers who brutally beat Rodney King.

The act was revised after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to expand presidential power and again in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Under President George W. Bush and Lt. General Russell Honore, thousands of active duty troops were sent to New Orleans -- despite the objections of nearly every governor in the country at the time to expand the power.

How can it be invoked?


The Insurrection Act can be invoked at a state's request. A state legislature or governor could request assistance from the president to "to suppress [an] Insurrection."

The law states: "If there is an insurrection in a State, the President, at the request of the State's legislature, or Governor if the legislature cannot be convened, may call National Guards of other States into Federal service as well as use the Federal military to suppress the insurrection."

Two other Insurrection Act provisions allow a president to invoke it regardless of a state's wishes.

One provision permits it to be invoked if the president deems it necessary "to suppress an insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination or conspiracy."

The law states: "Whenever the President considers that unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages or rebellion against authority of United States makes it impracticable to enforce the law of the United States in any State or territory by judicial proceedings, the President may call into Federal service the militia of any State and use the Federal military to enforce the laws or suppress the rebellion."

A third option -- the most generalized provision -- says the president can use the armed forces when there is an interference with federal or state law.

The president may use the military to suppress insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination or conspiracy if "(a) it so hinders the execution of law of that State and of the United States and it deprives citizens of constitutional rights (e.g. due process); or (b) it opposes or obstructs the execution of laws or impedes the course of justice. In the event of the deprivation of rights, the State is deemed to have denied its citizens equal protection of laws."

But first, a proclamation to disperse:

Prior to invoking the Insurrection Act, the president and the attorney general must first issue a "proclamation to disperse."

If the situation is not cleared, the president may then issue an executive order to send in troops, according to a 2006 report by the Congressional Research Service.

Has Trump invoked it?

The White House has not issued a proclamation text, and President Trump didn't use the words "Insurrection Act" in his Monday night statement.

But at least one Republican has already recommended it: Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a staunch conservative, advocated on Twitter that Trump employ the 101st Airborne Division.

The most notable time 101st Airborne Division was in Cotton's home state was in 1957 when Eisenhower used the Insurrection Act to force desegregation and safely escort nine black students into Little Rock Central High School.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, was quick to dispute Trump's comments, rejecting the idea that the government can send troops to his jurisdiction.

"I reject the notion that the federal government can send troops into the state of Illinois," Pritzker told CNN. "He wants to change the subject from his failure over coronavirus, a miserable failure, and now see a moment when there's unrest because of the injustice that was done to George Floyd that he now wants to create another topic and something where he can be the law and order president."

An ABC analysis:

John Cohen, former Acting Undersecretary for Intelligence at the Department of Homeland Security, who is now an ABC News contributor, noted the U.S. military, as formidable as it is, isn't trained specifically to deal with civil unrest in the U.S.

"Placing U.S. military personnel in the position of potentially using deadly force against other U.S. citizens is not something that should be done in a cavalier manner," Cohen said.

"The experience of its deployment during the Los Angeles riots faced many logistical communication and operational challenges," added Cohen, also a former police officer who worked in Los Angeles county. "It wasn't seen as a successful operation by many."

Read the original text:

The original text of the act, which has been amended several times since it was first passed on March 3, 1807, reads as follows:

"An Act authorizing the employment of the land and naval forces of the United States, in cases of insurrections. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in all cases of insurrection, or obstruction to the laws, either of the United States, or of any individual state or territory, where it is lawful for the President of the United States to call forth the militia for the purpose of suppressing such insurrection, or of causing the laws to be duly executed, it shall be lawful for him to employ, for the same purposes, such part of the land or naval force of the United States, as shall be judged necessary, having first observed all the pre-requisites of the law in that respect."

One more thing:

When the Insurrection Act was used in 1992, Attorney General William Barr was serving as attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that President Lyndon B. Johnson invoked the Insurrection Act in 1967 and 1968 and that President John F. Kennedy did so in 1962 and 1963.

ABC News' Martha Raddatz, Luis Martinez, Terry Moran and Trish Tuner contributed to this report.

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Official White House Photo by Joyce N. BoghosianBy JORDYN PHELPS and BEN GITTLESON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- It was a made-for-TV moment.

President Donald Trump, Bible in hand, posing in front of the historic St. John’s Church a block from the White House Monday night, the day after the church’s basement apparently was set on fire by protesters.

It came at a cost.

Demonstrators who had been peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights in protesting the death of George Floyd and racial injustice in policing were pushed back, forcibly, with the use of flash-bangs and tear gas to make way for the president.

But the morning after the photo-op, which has been roundly criticized, Trump found no cause for regret as he posted on Twitter with his praise for the night’s events, that included the presence of hundreds of law enforcement and National Guardsmen in front of the White House.

"D.C. had no problems last night,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Great job done by all. Overwhelming force. Domination.”

The president directly congratulated himself for what was a quieter evening than those over the weekend in both the nation’s capital and Minneapolis, writing: “Thank you President Trump!”

But even as the president congratulated himself, many others found cause for condemnation.

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington said she was “outraged” by the president’s use of the historic episcopal church as a backdrop after breaking up the peaceful demonstration.

The Rev. Mariann Budde, the diocesan bishop who oversees St. John's Church, said on ABC's "Good Morning America" that the president's photo-op was "as if it were spiritual validation and justification for a message that is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and to the God of justice."

“That is not, quote, her church, that is not, quote, her Bible,” Counselor to the President KellyAnne Conway said in an interview with Fox News Tuesday. “We don’t look into other people’s hearts and souls and discern and judge what their faith is, why the president felt compelled to walk there, why he held that Bible up.”

Defending the president’s church photo op, she said, “that is a symbol to everyone that we will not allow arsonists and anarchists who set that fire ablaze … we won’t let them to dissuade us from practicing our religion.”

Trump on Tuesday morning also visited the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington to lay a wreath in honor of the former Pope's 100th birthday and later was to sign an executive order the White House said would "advance international religious freedom."

Just before he arrived, the Catholic Archbishop of Washington, Wilton D. Gregory, the nation's most senior African American bishop, issued a blistering statement along the same lines as his Episcopal counterpart, saying the Shrine, which he does not oversee, was also being "misused" by Trump.

"I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree," Gregory said.

"Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday also condemned the night's event, expressing dismay that police "came out and beat" protesters to clear the way for the president.

"What is that? That has no place and it's time for us to do away with that," said Pelosi.

Noting how Trump, as he stood in front of St. John's Church, held up a Bible, held up her own copy of the Bible in front of cameras and read several passages from the book of Ecclesiastes calling for healing.

Pelosi said President Trump "has the responsibility to heal" and used the moment to highlight the stark contrast between Trump's own words about the national protests vs what the presidents before him have said.

"We would hope that the president of the United States would follow the lead of so many other presidents before him and be a healer-in-chief, and not a fanner of the flame," Pelosi said.

After police used tear gas and pushed back peaceful protesters for Trump’s church visit, Pelosi reads from the Bible.

“A time to heal, the book of Ecclesiastes,” she says, adding she hopes Trump will be “healer in chief and not a fanner of the flames.” https://t.co/EaAcLoZpUA pic.twitter.com/G6S5jiFcjm

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) June 2, 2020

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Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesBy JOHN VERHOVEK and MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News

(PHILADELPHIA) -- Following a week of nationwide unrest and protests following the death of George Floyd, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former vice president Joe Biden delivered an emotional speech Tuesday morning in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, condemning President Donald Trump, and addressing what he describes as a “wake-up call” for a country upended by racial upheaval.

“‘I can’t breathe.’ ‘I can’t breathe.’ George Floyd’s last words. But they didn’t die with him. They’re still being heard. They’re echoing across this nation,” Biden said.

Biden, who held his first in-person campaign event in over two months Monday in Wilmington, Delaware, hearing from members of the African American community about their priorities in the wake of Floyd’s death, also emphasized that the protests, coupled with the disproportionate impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on minority communities, highlight the need to address systemic racial injustices.

“They speak to a nation where too often just the color of your skin puts your life at risk. They speak to a nation where more than 100,000 people have lost their lives to a virus and 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment -- with a disproportionate number of these deaths and job losses concentrated in the black and minority communities,” he said.

The Democrat took direct aim at President Trump, following a night defined by the decision to use tear gas to push back peaceful protestors near the White House so that Trump could walk to the historic St. John’s Church nearby and pose with a Bible alongside senior members of administration.

“When peaceful protestors are dispersed by the order of the president from the doorstep of the people’s house, the White House — using tear gas and flash grenades — in order to stage a photo op at a noble church, we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle,” Biden said.

"More interested in serving the passions of his base than the needs of the people in his care,” Biden added. “For that’s what the presidency is: a duty of care — to all of us, not just our voters, not just our donors, but all of us.”

“The president held up the Bible at St John's Church yesterday. I just wish he opened it once in a while. Instead of brandishing it. If he opened it he could have learned something. They're all called to love one another as we love ourselves, it's really hard work. But it's the work of America,” Biden said, adding that Trump has “no interest” in doing that work.

“In addition to the Bible, the president might also want to open the U.S. Constitution once in a while. If he did he'd find a thing called the First Amendment. And what it says, in the beginning, it says: 'The right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition their government for redress of grievances. That's kind of an essential notion built into this country. Mr. President, that's America. That's America,” Biden added.

He said that while no person can promise to be a perfect president, the former vice president pledged to try to unite the country and “heal the racial wounds.”

"I promise you this. I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate. I will seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued this country – not use them for political gain," Biden said. "I’ll do my job and take responsibility. I won’t blame others. I’ll never forget that the job isn’t about me. It’s about you. And I’ll work to not only rebuild this nation. But to build it better than it was."

The focus on President Trump’s exploitation of division has long been a focus for Biden in his presidential campaign, launching his run with a video that focused on the events of Charlottesville in 2017 as the catalyst prompting his third run for the White House.

“That’s when we heard the words of the president of the United States that stunned the world, and shocked the conscience of this nation. He said there were 'very fine people on both sides.' Very fine people on both sides?” Biden said in the April 2019 video launching his campaign.

"With those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate, and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had seen in my lifetime,” Biden continued.

During a roundtable on Monday with mayors from major American cities, Biden described the widespread protests as a manifestation of “justifiable” anger, but urged those protestors to refrain from violence and looting, which he argues overshadows their main message.

“We need that anger. We need that to tell us to move forward. It helps us push through this pain and reach the other side to hopefully greater progress, equality and inclusion,” Biden said. “But we're also seeing a justifiable public outrage and protests turned to acts of needless destruction in cities across the country, which are not justified.”

“I think we all agree that the act of protesting should never be overshadowed by the reason we're protesting. It shouldn't drive people away from a just cause that a protest is meant to advance, but violence is endangers lives, it guts local businesses, it is no way forward,” he added, speaking with the mayors of Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and St. Paul.

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ABC NewsBy STEVEN SPARKS and GARY LANGER

(NEW YORK) -- Unpersuaded by more than 100,000 pandemic deaths in the United States, 45% of strong conservatives, four in 10 Republicans and nearly as many evangelical Christians say they’d be unlikely to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, even for free.

Overall, 27% of adults in an ABC News/Washington Post poll say they definitely (15%) or probably (12%) would not get the vaccine. Among them, half say they don’t trust vaccines in general, while nearly a quarter don’t think it’s needed in this case.

[ CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FULL RESULTS FROM THE POLL ]

A plurality definitely would get vaccinated (43%) and 28% say they probably would. The net, 71%, is much higher than the adult vaccination rate for the standard seasonal flu -- 45% in the 2018-19 flu season, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (with a wide range by state, from 34 to 56%). It’s much lower than the 2017 child vaccination rates for polio and measles/mumps/rubella, 93% and 92%, respectively.

A mix of groups express less interest in getting vaccinated -- 46% of Republican women, 45% (as noted) very conservative Americans, 40% of Republicans and 37% of evangelical Christians.

Across the spectrum, 90% of Democratic men say they definitely or probably would get the vaccine, as would 81% of Democrats overall, and as many liberals in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.

Interest is higher, although not overwhelmingly high, among seniors -- 77% -- compared with all other adults, 69%.

The overall result is similar to other recent surveys (by Fox News, ABC/Ipsos, Pew Research and CNN) in which 23 to 33% of adults have said they would not get vaccinated or would not be likely to. By contrast, in a November 2009 ABC/Post survey, many more said they likely would not get vaccinated against the swine flu, 66%.

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3dfoto/iStockBy MEG CUNNINGHAM, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With the presidential primary all but wrapped, attention is turning to down-ballot races across the country where outside spending has made its mark and as candidates adapt to campaigning from home.

A number of competitive primaries are coming to a close on Tuesday in states which delayed their voting due to the pandemic. Indiana, New Mexico and Iowa are facing crowded Republican stand-offs, while the party as a whole searches for a path to winnow the Democratic House majority come November.

In Montana, Republicans and Democrats are facing a race for the state’s at-large House district, a Senate seat and the governor’s mansion. While no ultra competitive primaries are underway out West, Tuesday’s vote will be a test of enthusiasm in the state.

In Indiana’s 5th Congressional District, which sits northeast of Indianapolis, a packed Republican race has ensued a brawl to replace retiring Republican Rep. Susan Brooks.

The anti-tax Club for Growth endorsed state Sen. Victoria Spartz, a Ukrainian immigrant who often refers to her time in the Soviet Union on the trail, saying she has experienced “firsthand the dark side of socialism.”

Club for Growth has spent $461,138 on the race and bundled $56,686, putting up at least three ads attacking who they see as her main opponents, former Marion County prosecutor Carl Brizzi and Beth Henderson, who brands herself as a “pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment, and pro- Trump conservative.”

In the final days of the race, Henderson launched an ad, which floated a veiled attack on Spartz’s immigration status, saying at the end of the ad “I was born in the U.S.A., and I’m running for Congress.”

Spartz’s campaign, in a statement addressing the ad, says the reaction from voters to her story has been positive, and they feel it inspires voters.

“Victoria Spartz came to the United States legally, became a citizen, built successful businesses, served in the State Senate and raised a family. She really has built the American Dream in Indiana. Voters appreciate her story and understand that she shares their values and will defend our way of life,” campaign spokesperson Tim Edson said.

In the same district, Democrats appear to have rallied behind Christina Hale, their nominee for lieutenant governor in 2016. The district is increasingly trending blue, but still looks to be safely in Republican hands come November.

Further north in the state, in Indiana’s first congressional district, a 14-way Democratic primary is going down for the safely blue seat in an effort to replace retiring Rep. Peter Visclosky. Former Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott is one of the top fundraisers and has the endorsement of former presidential contender Rep. Seth Moulton. McDermott is leaning on his experience as a long-term mayor in the crowded primary in an effort to elbow out his competitors.

National Latino groups, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s BOLD PAC, have rallied behind state House Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, who would be the first Latina elected to the Indiana Congressional delegation.

In an interview with ABC News, Candelaria Reardon said the coronavirus pandemic has changed the campaign trail -- but has illuminated some of the kitchen table issues which should be a centerpiece of the race.

“I think you're seeing the glaring glaring holes in our healthcare system, and they've been certainly laid bare in front of everybody,” she said. “And people are very concerned about that. People are also very concerned at the lack of leadership from the top, and how this has really shown that President Trump and this administration were totally unprepared for this crisis and unprepared to lead.”

One of the larger challenges for the race, her campaign manager said, was the fast switch to an expanded vote-by-mail process in Indiana, and making sure potential constituents have the resources they need to cast their ballots.

“We have done a lot of digital content with regard to where you can get a ballot, how to get a ballot, whether it's dropping off absentee applications to people, we've really been engaged in making sure that people know that there is a safe way to vote,” Grigsby Crawford, Candelaria Reardon’s campaign manager, said.

In Iowa, candidates have been at work connecting with voters in an effort to get out the vote amid the pandemic. Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, a narrowly blue seat, is home to a competitive primary between Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling.

Miller-Meeks is a part of the National Republican Campaign Committee’s “Young Guns” program, and has aligned herself with President Donald Trump on the trail.

Her campaign has hit on Schilling, who recently announced he was undergoing cancer treatment, alleging his wavering support for Trump in a Facebook video posted to her campaign’s page.

According to a spokesman, the Miller-Meeks campaign feels that drawing the comparison between her dedication to Trump and his agenda is a strong playbook for winning the district.

“We have seen that the district, as you know, went for the president and his support remains very strong here in the state,” Eric Woolson, her campaign spokesperson, said. “It has been very important to do in the primary, certainly.”

The same motif -- drawing on apparent “anti-Trump” stances -- has appeared in a competitive Republican primary in New Mexico, where oil executive Claire Chase and former state Rep. Yvette Herrell are running for the Republican nod in the state’s second congressional district, a swing seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.

Defending Main Street PAC, a Republican-aligned outside group, dropped $100,000 for an ad buy in late May against Herrell, calling her an “anti-Trump” liberal, after she allegedly attended an invitation-only fundraiser with "Never Trump" Republicans, according to the ad.

In a statement, Herrell said that voters in the second district aren’t buying into the attacks coming from outside groups on her campaign.

“We feel very good about our campaign as we head into the homestretch. We're focused on the issues that matter to the people of New Mexico's Second District, like our critically important energy and ag industries, as well as safely reopening our economy so our small businesses and rural communities can survive,” Herrell said in a statement to ABC. “New Mexicans aren't buying the desperate and false attacks on my character, and we are in a strong position to earn the nomination and take back this district in November."

Meanwhile, Herrell released an attack ad on Chase, an oil executive, calling out her alleged "never Trump" views, reading Facebook posts supposedly made by Chase which show disapproval for the president.

Democrats also waded into the Republican primary. Democratic women’s PAC Emily’s List’s Women Vote sent mailers boosting Herrell ahead of the primary.

The attacks have been a preview of what is to come as the general election moves into view. The primaries, nonetheless, primed election officials and campaigns alike as to what the race could look like in November if coronavirus continues to hang over the country.

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