Street Violence Hangs Over the Campaign

“Law and order” politics take center stage as the protests — and counterprotests — take a deadly turn. It’s Monday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

  • Let’s leave the coronavirus aside for a second. There’s a new, tragic toll to keep track of in this bitterly divided election season: lives lost in the skirmishes between demonstrators and counterprotesters.

  • A man affiliated with a right-wing group in Portland, Ore., was shot and killed on Saturday, just days after a 17-year-old was charged in the killings of two people during clashes last week in Kenosha, Wis.

  • After the violence over the weekend, President Trump wasn’t shy about choosing sides and laying blame. He “liked” a tweet posted on Friday expressing support for Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged in the Kenosha killings. And in a series of his own tweets yesterday, the president argued that the violence in Portland was the natural result of a protest movement driven by “Agitators and Anarchists.”

  • “The only way you will stop the violence in the high crime Democrat run cities is through strength!” Trump wrote. In another tweet, he shared a video of his supporters firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, writing: “The big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected.”

  • If you watched the Republican National Convention last week, you already knew Trump and his allies had decided to make the unrest in cities across the country a central theme of the president’s re-election campaign. They’re betting that voters will believe that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris lack the will or the wherewithal to take on protesters.

  • We don’t know yet whether that approach will resonate with voters — especially the suburban swing voters whom both campaigns are focusing on so heavily — or if they will instead hold the president accountable for stoking unrest on his watch.

  • Biden issued a statement yesterday condemning the violence and blaming Trump for “using the politics of fear to whip up his supporters.”

  • “We must not become a country at war with ourselves,” Biden wrote, echoing sentiments he expressed the day before in a speech to the National Guard Association of the United States. “But that is the America that President Trump wants us to be, the America he believes we are.”

  • The country’s top intelligence officials will no longer provide regular in-person briefings to Congress about threats of foreign interference in the election, according to a letter from the director of national intelligence.

  • The director, John Ratcliffe, told House and Senate leadership about the move in letters on Saturday, saying that the change was meant to prevent leaks of classified information and to ensure that briefings were not misinterpreted.

  • But lawmakers in both parties expressed alarm. Two leading Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, wrote in a statement that the move was “shameful,” adding that House briefings scheduled for September on election security threats had been canceled at the request of Ratcliffe’s office.

  • Meanwhile, a Times investigation has revealed that Justice Department officials took secret steps to rein in the inquiry into Trump’s personal and business ties to Russia.

  • In 2017, as the special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election was getting underway, Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, curtailed the investigation without telling the F.B.I., where some officials worried that Trump’s decades-long affiliation with Russian business interests could pose a national security threat.

  • Andrew McCabe, the bureau’s acting director at the time, told The Times that if he had known the special counsel was not going to investigate the president’s personal ties to Russia, he would have proceeded with his own investigation.

  • An ABC News/Ipsos poll released yesterday found that Trump’s favorability rating is at 31 percent nationwide, meaning he did not get a boost after the Republican National Convention. (Most other recent polls have placed his approval rating considerably higher, often in the low 40s. More post-convention polling is sure to arrive in the days ahead.)

  • Despite the various speakers at the convention who extolled Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis, the ABC/Ipsos poll also showed no bump in support for his handling of the outbreak. Thirty-five percent of respondents gave him positive marks on confronting the pandemic, on par with his numbers from July.

  • While 53 percent of Americans said they generally approved of what the Democrats had said and done at their convention, just 37 percent liked what they had seen and heard from the Republicans last week, according to the poll.

Credit…Mason Trinca for The New York Times

Trump supporters gathered on Saturday in Clackamas, Ore., a Portland suburb, before long lines of pickup trucks waving Trump flags drove toward the city’s downtown.

Which is less likely: an incumbent legislator with strong progressive credentials losing the Democratic primary in Massachusetts, or a well-liked Kennedy family scion losing a race that he had seemed well positioned to win just weeks before?

Either outcome would be a surprise — but one is sure to come true on Tuesday, when Senator Ed Markey, 74, faces off against Representative Joseph Kennedy III, 39.

Even before Kennedy officially announced his candidacy last September, polls showed him leading Markey by double digits. Widely considered a rising figure in the party, Kennedy was selected by leadership to deliver the Democrats’ rebuttal to Trump’s State of the Union address in 2018.

Kennedy’s Senate campaign has picked up endorsements by the score, including from the House’s top Democrats, Pelosi and Steny Hoyer.

But Markey’s liberal record — especially his role last year as an author of the Green New Deal — has helped him retain the staunch support of many left-wing voters. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, his partner in drafting the bill, threw a lifeline to Markey’s campaign when she recorded an advertisement on his behalf in late July. “When it comes to progressive leadership, it’s not your age that counts,” she said. “It’s the age of your ideas.”

Since then, things have swung in Markey’s direction. A recent Suffolk University poll showed him leading Kennedy by 10 points.

Markey has not always flown the flag of progressivism quite so proudly. Kennedy has pointed out that, as a congressman, Markey opposed school busing in the 1970s, supported the 1994 crime bill and voted for the Patriot Act of 2001 and the Iraq war authorization. But in the Senate, Markey’s voting record thus far has been among the most liberal in the chamber.

“Markey has done a very skillful job of reinventing himself,” former Representative Barney Frank, who served alongside Markey in the House, dryly told our reporter Jonathan Martin. “As a politician, I have admiration for the skill he’s done it with.”

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