For Trump, June was the darkest of months

The president's very bad month began with a controversy over clearing anti-racism protesters and ended with widening questions about Russian bounties on U.S. troops.
Washington, D.C.
Trump walks on White House South lawn after returning from his Tulsa campaign rally early June 21.Patrick Semansky / AP

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By Carol E. Lee, Kristen Welker and Monica Alba

WASHINGTON — The month of June began with President Donald Trump standing in front of a church, holding a Bible after protesters demonstrating against racism in law enforcement had been aggressively cleared from the area.

It ended with the nation facing an escalating coronavirus pandemic with a stark warning that as many as 100,000 Americans a day could test positive for COVID-19 and a widening scandal over the president’s handling of intelligence about a Russian plot to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

In between:

  • The president suggested a hospitalized elderly protester had faked a head injury when police shoved him to the ground — on the day of George Floyd’s funeral.
  • He threatened to deploy active-duty U.S. troops to states if governors didn’t “dominate the streets” to brush back protesters.
  • He posted a video of a supporter yelling “white power” on his Twitter page.
  • The president, asked by a reporter what he was accusing former President Obama of when he uses the term "Obamagate," responded by saying "treason."
  • His former national security adviser, John Bolton, published a 592-page book that says the president is “unfit for office,” lacks competence, asked the Chinese government to help him get re-elected and condoned concentration camps. (The president lost a last-ditch effort to block its publication).
  • His former defense secretary broke 18 months of silence to blast the president’s leadership.
  • He suggested his administration should slow down coronavirus testing as cases surge across the country and states roll back plans to reopen, raising concerns of a further economic slump.
  • The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, publicly apologized for appearing with the president in his church photo-op June 1.
  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper also publicly distanced himself from it.
  • A slew of polls showed the president trailing former Vice President Joe Biden nationally and in key states, while losing ground with women and seniors.
  • By mid-month, the usually Trump-friendly Wall Street Journal editorial board concluded: “Mr. Trump has reverted to his worst form.”
  • The economy officially entered into a recession that began in February.
  • The president appeared unsteady on his feet when descending a ramp after delivering a commencement address at West Point — a scene he later re-enacted at his first campaign rally in three months.
  • Trump’s campaign was forced to reschedule the rally in Tulsa after widespread outrage that he planned to hold it on Juneteenth, the holiday marking the emancipation of slaves in the U.S.
  • When the rally did go forward, it was attended by less than 1 percent of the more than 1 million people his campaign said had requested tickets. And members of the president’s own campaign staff and Secret Service detail who were there tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • The president’s campaign scrapped a potential July rally in Alabama because of concerns about the coronavirus, and shifted its chief organizing officer in charge of the events to a new role after the Tulsa debacle.
  • He moved the Republican National Convention from North Carolina to Florida so he could pack thousands of people into an arena without social distancing, facial coverings or other health precautions. And now the new host city — Jacksonville — has adopted a policy mandating masks indoors because of a surge in coronavirus cases.
  • The Supreme Court handed down three rulings that were blows to the president’s agenda on immigration, gay rights and abortion.
  • Two of the president’s preferred candidates in Kentucky and North Carolina lost their primaries.
  • Trump’s niece disclosed she’s written a tell-all book alleging her uncle engaged in fraudulent tax schemes. (Trump won a small victory Tuesday when a judge issued a temporary block on its publication).

Meanwhile, the rate of coronavirus spread has soared, leading many states to roll back reopenings. In addition, a better-than expected May jobs report and a stock market recovery are about to run head-first into the end of government stimulus spending with no clear path forward for more help from a Congress that also remains deadlocked on police reform as election season kicks into high gear.

Trump has had bad weeks and rough stretches since his earliest days in office. He was impeached, after all. But he arguably hasn’t had a worse month than this past one. June 2020 — four months before he is up for re-election — stands out even in a term that has been riddled with self-inflicted controversies and crises exacerbated by the president’s combative, never-apologize approach to just about everything.

July was supposed to get off to a good start for the president, with the White House planning an event outside Washington to mark the United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal going into effect. But that trip was canceled and Trump won’t leave the White House until Friday, when he’ll participate in an outdoor Independence Day celebration at Mount Rushmore with no social distancing.

As the election gets closer, a bad stretch for the president takes on added significance.

Perhaps summing up his planned way forward, the president tweeted Tuesday: “THE LONE WARRIOR!”