This week in US politics: A summer time freed from lockdowns, the Trump revenge tour and a New York mess
Welcome to your weekly overview of all the major news, strange rules, and interesting events in the world of US politics.
Yesterday in America, for the first time in 18 months, I met 23 strangers in a dimly lit rubber-floored room where we sprinted on treadmills and heaved weights over our heads while a coach yelled vague but effective encouragement over a pulsating mix of pop -Hits.
A few people gave high five with no consideration for social distancing. Neither of us wore masks. And I only felt guilty once.
Perhaps exercise wouldn’t be your preferred way of celebrating vaccination status. I mean, it’s not mine either.
Last week in US politics
Former US President Donald Trump returned to rallies. Because of this, it was both a predictable move and a huge risk to his future political plans.
But I’ll admit that I got a few tears of joy (and maybe a little sweat) running down my face as I left the studio after completing my first group fitness class since vaccination.
Instead of a specific day when we can all say, “The pandemic is over, get back to normal,” each of those little “first since” moments hit me in a stupidly dramatic way. It’s like the emotions reversed since the pandemic started – I feel overjoyed at the same things that once left me with crippling, physical anxiety.
America was virtually in perpetual lockdown from March 2020 to May 2021 when an extensive vaccination effort finally got under way.
Most things are open and work as usual. But the closure and catharsis never really came. We long to say “post-pandemic” with confidence.
President Joe Biden goes to great lengths to emphasize this point this weekend as America celebrates independence on July 4th.
He and his cabinet will be spread across 15 states, participating in baseball games and barbecues, marching in parades and attending fire stations. They try to wrap up as many of those “first since” moments as possible and they call it “America’s Back Together” weekend.
First Lady Jill Biden was on a tour to encourage Americans to get vaccinated.
Reuters: Carolyn Kaster
Except that the country isn’t really back together. Not quite yet.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US is still recording more than 11,000 new COVID-19 cases per day and an average of more than 280 deaths. That’s a huge (more than 90 percent) decrease in both numbers since this thing peaked, but it’s not nothing.
For one thing, vaccination rates are stagnating and America has not yet achieved herd immunity.
Biden’s initial goal was to get 70 percent of US adults at least their first COVID-19 vaccine by the July 4th holiday this weekend. On Monday, this metric was around 66 percent, according to the CDC.
Concerns over the Delta variant tripping lockdowns in largely unvaccinated Australia this week is not stopping America’s march towards normalcy.
That’s because in the most densely populated areas of the country (think New York), vaccination rates are rising rapidly and approaching this magical herd immunity.
In New York, the Queer Liberation March was back after the city resumed its reopening after 2020. (
AP: Brittainy Newman
The biggest reluctances are sparsely populated rural areas, where the virus hasn’t hit as hard, and younger Americans, who are mistakenly made to feel at risk for the worst symptoms of the virus. If the current pace continues, only 57 percent of adults under 30 will receive at least one dose by the end of August.
Face-to-face talks with hesitant Americans are also on the White House’s agenda for the weekend.
But all of this president’s pageantry can’t drown out concern that peer pressure with vaccines will decrease as the country continues to march towards normalcy without reaching its own milestones (i.e., I had no way of knowing if someone in this fitness class was unvaccinated).
So while the Australians will have another weekend in lockdown, Biden will spend a weekend doing normalcy trying to keep the nation on par.
Even in a country where vaccines are so abundant that getting one is almost easier than getting a flat white man at the airport, the path out of the pandemic won’t be as linear as we – or our political leaders – are to wish.
So you could say it’s a way of getting back in shape. Just give in your own effort and hold on.
The big story
Well, it’s not a good day for anyone who has tried to hide their tax returns …
The Manhattan Attorney General has charged Donald Trump’s family business with 15 years of tax fraud. Allen Weisselberg, chief financial officer, is accused of avoiding taxes on $ 1.7 million ($ 2.3 million) in revenue.
Mr. Weisselberg is charged with an ongoing investigation into the Trump Organization. (
Reuters: Carlo Allegri
Trump is not expected to face charges today, but the court could learn a lot more about his finances from Weißelberg, who has come under heavy pressure to cooperate in the investigation.
The deputy prosecutor characterized Weißelberg’s alleged role as part of a “comprehensive and bold illegal payment system”.
The Trump Organization said the CFO is being used like a “farmer in a scorched earth attempt” to harm the former president.
Weißelberg surrendered this morning at 6:20 a.m. (local time) and submitted a plea for not guilty. Expect to hear his name often in the coming weeks.
FWIW, the timing of the impending judicial storm is likely to add some momentum to Biden’s tax plan. He wants to crack down on fraud and invasion to raise funds for infrastructure projects, an area of law that is universally accepted across all parties and where Trump should never make any headway.
The revenge tour
Trump turned the clock back in Ohio on his return to campaign events. (
Reuters: Shannon Stapleton
With all of this grand jury stuff going on in Manhattan, the former president made his return to public political life last week with a rally in Ohio and a trip to the US southern border.
Both trips allegedly dealt with:
- Assisting a candidate trying to elect a incumbent Republican who has voted for impeachment
- heat up Joe Biden’s immigration policy
But it’s Trump, so he’s mostly been talking about himself.
But as Politico reported, his fans at the rally didn’t care, who wanted to hear “the same stuff – just more of it”.
What was different was the cast of the supporting characters around the former president. Instead of other locally elected Republicans, Trump’s warm-ups were a who’s who of the conspiracy fringes of American conservatism.
Think Marjorie Taylor Greene. The MyPillow guy.
Marjorie Taylor Greene got a rock star reception while warming up for Trump in Ohio. (
Reuters: Shannon Stapleton
Last week, Republican strategist Eric Wilson told us the test for the rally would be how enthusiastic Trump’s supporters are and how much he could get media attention.
Numbers on the size of the crowd are always blurry, but local reporters certainly said the crowd got together to see Trump, even if they started shuffling out because they couldn’t speak to him.
On the media front, however, Trump appears to be significantly less successful. None of the major cable networks will broadcast the rally live – including Fox News.
Instead, it aired on the extremely conservative but audience-delayed Newsmax and One America News.
In a major win for transgender youth, SCOTUS said it would not hear a case regarding a school in Virginia prohibiting a transgender student from using the boys’ bathroom.
The court’s decision does not set a precedent.
But in all likelihood it will spark another round of discussion on the bathroom problem. From a social point of view, it has been one of the clearest divisions between right and left since the Obama administration threw its weight behind the students in 2016.
Burn the house down
The lower chamber of Congress voted 222-190 to set up a bipartisan committee to investigate the January 6th Capitol insurrection and review current security measures.
Two Republicans – MPs Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger – have sided with the Democrats to pass the measure, despite previously about 35 House Republicans saying they supported the measure.
House Speaker Nancy Pelos pushed a January 6 commission without the broad support of Republicans.
AP: J Scott Applewhite
That the only Republican supporters were two who have already been convicted by the party is not surprising, given that an earlier attempt to form a Senate commission was blocked by the Upper Chamber last month.
Republicans argued at the time that any kind of special investigation would be used as a political weapon in next year’s midterm elections.
A Redux caucus in Iowa in New York
Remember when the 2020 Iowa Democrats caucus was such a garbage fire they printed joke t-shirts about it?
Well, New York mayoral elections could be heading for an even bigger garbage fire.
Two weeks after the election, they are still counting the votes in the Democratic primary, which was the first time ranked voting was used.
And this week the New York Electoral Board released an updated census … which somehow included 135,000 bills that were used to test the system.
They know things are going bad when the Notes app’s apology comes out.
A day after that embarrassing withdrawal, the board released new results that showed the race looks much closer than it did when Eric Adams nearly took victory on election day.
The new balance leads to Adams leading the New York Times and supporting Kathryn Garcia with 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent.
Around 125,000 postal ballot papers are still to be counted, and if the ailing electoral board does not strike again, a winner will finally be chosen in mid-July.
Eric Adams’ lead in the Democratic primary in the New York mayoral campaign has narrowed.
Reuters: Andrew Kelly