According to a report from Politico, top aides to Donald Trump are at a loss over how to address the street protests over the death of George Floyd that have expanded right up to the White House gates.
With reports that the Secret Service moved a "rattled" Trump to a secure bunker under the White House as the protests raged outside, the report states that chief staffers are at loggerheads over what to do next as the president stays out of sight.
According to the report, "White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has been pushing for the president to deliver a formal address to the nation to emphasize his support for law and order and police officers, a familiar trope for the Republican Party and one that typically plays well with its base," however, "Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, along with several other top aides, argued against such a move, fearing the tone could alienate key voters ahead of the November election, including African Americans whose support the administration has been trying to court."
The report, based on interviews with a half-dozen senior administration officials and GOP lawmakers, states the White House is faced with the question: "How can the president soothe and lead a nation at a moment when more than 100,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, another 40 million are unemployed, and protests are raging through the U.S. after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last Monday?"
"Amid this swirl of crises, the Trump administration and its staffers have struggled to find the right tone and path to calm the country," Politico's Nancy Cook wrote. "The president keeps veering between expressing condolences for the death of Floyd, as he did in Florida at the SpaceX launch on Saturday, and then tweeting out far harsher rhetoric on protesters, looters or the Democratic leaders of the cities in which the protests have occurred. Trump made no public appearances on Sunday and did not leave the White House."
According to Jason Miller, a former senior communications adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign, the president should avoid any address for the time being.
“The protests are not just connected to the death of George Floyd. They are connected to the overall frustration with the economic downturn and coronavirus,” Miller argued. “There are no magical words of unity that can fix someone’s missing paycheck, or no magical words of unity on George Floyd.”
That opinion is not shared by some White House staffers who are also keeping an eye on the polls that show the president is falling behind in his attempt to be re-elected.
"Aides still have not settled on the best course of action, as the president continues to hear advice from top staffers, Republicans close to the White House, political advisers and members of his reelection campaign," the Politico report notes. "New polling out Sunday from The Washington Post and ABC News only added a sense of urgency, since it showed Trump trailing Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, by 10 percentage points nationally, whereas two months ago the same poll showed the two candidates just a few points apart."
Politico also reports there is likely more bad news on the horizon for the president.
"The pressure on the White House to respond to the protests will only continue this week, as the nation looks to Washington for leadership. Friday will bring potentially more bad news, when the Department of Labor will unveil the latest national unemployment statistics," Cook wrote. "Advisers have warned that the unemployment rate could rise from its current 14.7 percent to over 20 percent. Aides also plan to closely watch the coronavirus infection rates and how those play out as every state eases its standards on social distancing and the reopening of local businesses."
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