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As Minneapolis burns, Trump fans the flames

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office before signing an executive order related to regulating social media on May 28, 2020. Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)Doug Mills / Pool via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A pandemic that’s killed more than 100,000 Americans and counting. A major U.S. city that’s in flames. And now a president of the United States who is only fanning those flames.

“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” President Trump tweeted last night in regards to the violence in Minneapolis after Floyd was killed by local police.

“Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

Afterward, Twitter — which is already engaged in a protracted fight with the president — flagged the tweet for breaking the company’s rules by glorifying violence, but allowed it to remain accessible because it might be in the “public’s interest.” (That “shooting starts, looting starts” quote is traced back to a 1967 police chief in Miami during the Civil Rights Era.)

After covering Trump on the national stage over the last five years, no one should be surprised by his tweet, as well as the reaction to it.

But it stands out at a time when this country needs leadership more than ever, especially as the violence and unrest has carried over to other American cities.

And we have to ask: Is the president really going to watch — again — a rocket launch in Florida on Saturday given everything that’s going on?

Tweet of the day

Biden: “We are in a country with an open wound right now”

Meanwhile, at a virtual fundraiser last night, apparent Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden reacted to the violence and unrest in Minneapolis, per NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor.

“We can’t ignore that we are in a country with an open wound right now. A wound far older and deeper than George Floyd’s — George Floyd’s killing — and his brutal, brutal death captured on film. His final words, pleading for breathe. ‘Let me breathe, I can’t breathe.’ It’s ripped open anew this — this ugly underbelly of our society.”

Biden added, “Tonight the National Guard has been called out of Minneapolis and I urge the protestors to exercise their rights peacefully and safely. But people all across this country are enraged and rightly so. Everyday African Americans go about their lives with constant anxiety and trauma of wondering ‘Will I be next?’ Sounds like an exaggeration but it’s not. These tragedies, these injustices cut at the very heart of our most sacred of beliefs: that all Americans, equal in rights and in dignity, are part of an ingrained systemic cycle of racism and oppression that throughout every part of our society.”

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

1,728,275: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 18,736 more than yesterday morning.)

102,041: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,125 more than yesterday morning).

15.65 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

About 81 percent: The share of citations for social distancing violations that were issued to black and Latino people by the NYPD between mid-March to mid-May

599: The number of new coronavirus cases in Wisconsin on Wednesday, a new record two weeks after the state’s supreme court struck down a stay-at-home order

More than 2.1 million: The number of Americans who filed for unemployment for the first time last week.

2020 Vision: The presidential advertising race over TV and radio is tied

What good is a financial advantage in a presidential contest if you don’t use it – or at least have yet to use it?

That’s the current situation over the presidential airwaves, where Team Trump and Team Biden are essentially at parity during the general election. And that’s with the Biden campaign not spending a single dollar yet on a TV or radio ad.

From April 1 through yesterday (May 28), Republicans had spent $16.6 million on TV and radio ads in the presidential race, while Democrats had spent $15.4 million, according to data from Advertising Analytics. The biggest advertisers during this stretch:

  • Trump campaign: $10.2 million
  • Priorities USA (Dem Super PAC)): $9.0 million
  • America First (GOP Super PAC): $6.3 million
  • Unite the Country (Dem Super PAC): $2.8 million
  • America Bridge: (Dem Super PAC) $1.9 million

This relative parity in ad spending comes after the Trump campaign and the pro-Trump Super PAC America First have ramped up their spending over the past month.

And because a good chunk of the new Trump spending has been via a national buy, Democrats have had the advertising advantage in some key battleground states from April 1 to May 28, per Advertising Analytics.

  • Florida: GOP $2.6 million, Dems $776,000
  • Michigan: Dems $4.3 million, GOP $1.5 million
  • Pennsylvania: GOP $4.6 million, Dems $4.4 million
  • Wisconsin: Dems $2.8 million, GOP $2.1 million

At publication time, the pro-Trump Super PAC America First has just announced a $7.5 million buy in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

But we’ve got to ask: Where was this GOP cavalry earlier?

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s ad watch focuses on a Facebook ad from the Trump campaign orbit.

The Trump Make America Great Again Committee (one of the campaign’s a joint fundraising committees) released a new ad Thursday featuring Joe Biden in a drawn-on mask standing behind a Chinese flag.

It comes after the president retweeted a photo mocking Biden for wearing a mask during a public Memorial Day ceremony. Trump hasn’t donned a mask during any public event, although he did during a private portion of a recent trip to a Ford plant.

Biden, meanwhile, has been supportive of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance recommending face coverings in public.

Read more on the MTP Blog.

Bipartisanship — at last

On Thursday, the U.S. House passed the bipartisan Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act, which made changes to how businesses can use Paycheck Protection Program loan money while still getting their loans forgiven.

In what sometimes feels like a rarity on the Hill, the vote was nearly unanimous at 417-1.

Under this bill, businesses would have more time to use their loan money and still qualify for loan forgiveness, as well as change how much of the funds would have to be spent on payroll costs. The Senate had been set to move forward with its own PPP fix last week, but adjourned for the Memorial Day Recess once it became clear they would not be able to pass the bill without a roll call vote. The Senate bill, which is sponsored by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, extends the deadline to apply for PPP, extends borrowers time to use their loans, and clarifies how borrowers with payrolls will still get loan forgiveness, among other things.

However, now that both chambers of Congress are out of session for the week, it’s unlikely any further action will be taken by the Senate until June 1, at the earliest, on this proposal – which means more compromises are to come between the Senate, House and the president on PPP.

The Lid: For tweet’s sake

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at public opinion about social media — and who uses it.

Shameless plug: Meet the Press' College Roundtable

Today, NBC News and “Meet the Press” are releasing the first episode of Meet the Press: College Roundtable. The new series brings together college journalism students from across the country for a weekly, virtual panel discussion diving into the issues affecting them, their communities and the future of their education.

New episodes will be available every Friday on NBC News’ digital platforms, including NBC News’ YouTube channel, NBC News’ Stay Tuned on Snapchat, and on Peacock, NBCUniversal’s new streaming service.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Plenty of legal experts are weighing in on Trump’s Twitter move, with most saying that it’s destined to fail.

Plans to hold the Republican convention in Charlotte are going forward despite the president’s threats.

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is taking herself out of the running for veep.

A coalition of media groups have sued North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper over access to Covid-19 records.

NBC’s Jonathan Allen looks at the consequences of President Trump’s gutting of oversight protections.

A new class-action lawsuit against the Trump administration alleges that its ban on legal immigration during the coronavirus pandemic is unfairly separating older children from their parents.

Here’s how the Democratic candidate in the Kansas Senate race is pitching herself as Republicans fight amongst themselves.