Trump takes his brand of controversy, conflict and chaos to must-win Michigan

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.
Protesters carry a Trump 2020 flag at the State Capitol during a rally in Lansing, Mich., on May 20, 2020, where barbers and hair stylists protested the state's stay-at-home orders.
Protesters carry a Trump 2020 flag at the State Capitol during a rally in Lansing, Mich., on May 20, 2020, where barbers and hair stylists protested the state's stay-at-home orders.Paul Sancya / AP

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Carrie Dann and Melissa Holzberg

WASHINGTON — A hallmark of President Trump’s three-and-a-half years in office has been the constant controversy, conflict and chaos he brings with him — sometimes to his benefit, often to his detriment.

And today, he brings them to the battleground state of Michigan, where he tours a Ford plant in Ypsilanti that’s making ventilators to combat the coronavirus (and where he meets with African-American leaders before that).

Just yesterday, Trump fired off a tweet falsely accusing the state of Michigan of sending out ballots to its registered voters (in fact, the state sent applications, not ballots — and the president later corrected his tweet), and threatened to withhold the state’s funding as a result.

Later asked about the funding threat, Trump said that Michigan will be “finding out” if it’s necessary.

“We’ll let you know if it’s necessary. You’ll be finding out. They’ll be finding out very soon if it’s necessary. I don’t think it’s going to be necessary — because mail-in ballots are a very dangerous thing.” (In fact, Trump has cast his own absentee ballots to participate in Florida’s elections.)

Trump’s visit to the state also comes just a month after he tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” despite the state’s 53,000 confirmed coronavirus cases (seventh-most in the country) and 5,000-plus deaths (fourth-most).

What’s more, Trump’s appearance comes in violation of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order to prohibit non-essential visits and tours to manufacturing facilities in the state, the Detroit Free-Press writes.

It comes as the state’s attorney general, Democrat Dana Nessel, has asked Trump to wear a mask while in Michigan to adhere to the state’s and Ford’s own policies mandating masks.

(Raise your hand if you think Trump will comply.)

And the visit comes amid the news that the state is battling dam failures that are creating a “life-threatening situation.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

1,565,277: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 22,241 more than yesterday morning.)

94,083: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,311 more than yesterday morning).

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

More than 5 million: The number of coronavirus cases worldwide

At least 36,000: The number of lives lost in the United States by the delay of social distancing restrictions by just a single week in March, according to Columbia University disease modelers.

None, yet: The amount of new CDC guidance specifically for places of worship, as the organization struggles with the White House over the stringency of its recommendations for reopening

11: The number of presidents served by former White House butler Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, who has died at age 91 after contracting coronavirus

Twice as likely: How much more likely nursing homes with a high percentage of black and Latino residents are to have been hit with coronavirus cases.

Just imagine if Hillary Clinton had done this

Ask yourself what would have been the reaction – especially from Republicans — if you substituted Secretary of State’s Mike Pompeo’s name here with Hillary Clinton’s.

NBC News: Pompeo's elite taxpayer-funded dinners raise new concerns

CNN: Pompeo says he should have had inspector general fired 'some time ago' but refuses to explain why

New York Times: Pompeo Declined Interview Request From Inspector General About Saudi Arms Sales

2020 Vision: Meet Biden VP possibility Keisha Lance Bottoms

In our continued look at the contenders to be Joe Biden’s running mate, we today examine Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Strengths: Jim Clyburn, perhaps Biden’s most crucial black ally not named Barack Obama, has mentioned her as a black woman who should be viewed as a top VP contender. She’s only 50 and hails from Georgia, which could be a key 2020 state. And her local leadership in Atlanta during the coronavirus crisis — and her resistance to aggressive reopening plans by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp — has boosted her national profile.

Weaknesses: Bottoms is new to the national stage and her highest elected office is as a large-city mayor, which would likely prompt questions about her fitness to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Other potential oppo stories: She and her husband have had multiple property tax liens against them, much of which Bottoms has blamed on financial problems the couple incurred during unsuccessful fertility treatments. The couple has also taken heat for owning a $1.1 million second home on Martha’s Vineyard. And her mayoral campaign was investigated for improper campaign finance disclosure, and she voluntarily returned a campaign contribution from a contractor who was raided by the FBI.

Ad watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s ad watch looks at Iowa’s Senate race, where the Democratic primary is heating up in the final weeks.

Many powerful Democrats have rallied around Democrat Theresa Greenfield— she’s backed by influential groups like the DSCC, EMILY’s List and NARAL, endorsed by prominent Democrats like Sens. Elizabeth Warren, and has been boosted on the airwaves by the Senate Majority PAC.

But there’s been some interesting movement as of late.

Democrat Eddie Mauro is up with a new ad hitting Greenfield after a Monday debate that turned chippy at times. He’s repeatedly taken swipes at Greenfield’s business record in recent ads.

Greenfield’s campaign just released her first two TV ads too, one playing up her high-profile endorsements and another bio spot where she talks about how her husband’s death on the job underscored the importance of social security to her.

Her allies have come to her defense this cycle —she’s benefitted from millions of dollars in television ads promoting her campaign, dwarfing the spending of her Democratic rivals. And EMILY’s List recently posted a fact check that takes aim at her top opponents, which could also serve as a signal to outside groups looking to play in the race down the stretch.

But the heated attacks from Mauro, the Greenfield campaign’s decision to begin running TV ads, and the fact that the Des Moines Register endorsed retired Admiral Michael Franken over Greenfield all serve as reminders to keep an eye on the June 2 primary.

Senate Republicans want PPP flexibility

While Senate Republicans aren’t unified on passing further coronavirus relief legislation, they are supportive on allowing more flexibility to businesses to spend loan money they’ve already received, NBC’s Capitol Hill team reports.

“Senate Republicans appear generally supportive of a bipartisan House plan to fix the PPP loan program to allow businesses greater flexibility in spending the loan money they receive, even as they remain cool to passing another large-scale relief bill. ‘I hear a lot of push back about the 75-25 [split of how businesses can spend the loans,] yeah so that’s something we could maybe find common ground on,’ South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham told NBC News.”

If Senate Republicans can get on board for another round of funding, it doesn’t look likely to happen before July 4. Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt told reporters, “I think optimistically, we might move before the 4th of July. But I don’t know that we move that quick.” And he later added that any type of bill would be structured on what they think the economy would look like in August or September — not based on what’s happening now: “It’s reasonable for us not to yet have a sense of what either the fight against the virus or the fight for the economy is going to look like in August and September, which is really the period that whatever we do now should be focused on,” Blunt said.

The Lid: Hey, Mr. Postman

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at the president’s opposition to voting-by-mail (and how it could actually hurt him.)

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The Supreme Court has temporarily blocked the handing over of grand jury materials in the Mueller investigation to the House Judiciary Committee.

Remember the National Guardsman who stopped a gunman on a train bound for Paris? Looks like he’s on track to be the GOP nominee in Oregon’s Fourth Congressional District.

Despite a public decree of “full steam ahead,” Republican officials are quietly considering a pared-down convention.

Elizabeth Warren is refining her Medicare for All position as her VP stock rises.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s husband has cut a $1 million check to a pro-Trump super PAC.

Hillary Clinton raised $2 million for Biden’s run.