The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: When the Cameras Were Off

Two years ago, Representative Elijah Cummings—a recent target of the president’s attacks—briefly humbled Trump with some private advice. Plus: another mass shooting stuns a California city.

Emergency responders work at the scene of a mass shooting during the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California. ((Chris Smead / Reuters))
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What We’re Following Today

It’s Monday, July 29.

‣ At least three people were killed in a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California on Sunday night, and at least 12 others were injured. Another shooting, also on Sunday, at a Brooklyn, New York, block party left one dead and 11 wounded.

Here’s what else we’re watching:

‘Nobody Has Ever Told Me That’: In a series of tweets over the course of this weekend, President Donald Trump called Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland a “racist” and labeled his Baltimore district a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” But two years ago, the president had an entirely different conversation with Cummings—one that briefly humbled him, Peter Nicholas reports. The goodwill didn’t last.

The Betomania of Elections Past: Edward-Isaac Dovere found the Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke last week in Flint, Michigan, making spaghetti with a family of four. After becoming a breakout star with his 2018 Senate run, O’Rourke has so far had a disappointing 2020 run. The debate this week will be his chance to try to turn things around.

Another One Bites the Dust: The president announced last night that Dan Coats was stepping down from his post as director of national intelligence, to be replaced by Representative John Ratcliffe of Texas. The end of Coats’s tenure represents one more example of Trump’s inclination to punish people who offer advice that contradicts his instincts.

D.C. vs. Beijing: The growing conflict between the U.S. and China has received little attention in the presidential race so far. It deserves much more, argues Michael Schuman: “The unraveling U.S.-China relationship could touch nearly every aspect of American life, from the future of U.S. industry and the global influence of Silicon Valley to our military priorities and diplomatic alliances.”


(Stephanie Keith / Reuters)

Reverend Al Sharpton, from the National Action Network, speaks with hecklers after a news conference in Baltimore responding to President Trump’s tweets about the city and its representative.

Ideas From The Atlantic

Trump Is Making Up Reasons to Stoke Racial Fears (Peter Beinart)
“Over the past two weeks, as President Donald Trump has picked fights with Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and now Elijah Cummings, a consensus has emerged: Trump has begun his reelection campaign. He’s stoking bigotry to motivate his conservative white base.” → Read on.

Trump’s Twitter Attacks Are Backfiring (David A. Graham)
“It’s reminiscent of the old parody motivational poster that reads, ‘The beatings will continue until morale improves.’ Or, in Trump’s case: ‘The tweeting will continue until the chyrons improve.’ In the past, this has worked well for Trump.” → Read on.

For Trump and Barr, Executions Are a Statement (Andrea D. Lyon)
“[Attorney General William] Barr’s abrupt decision to resume federal executions looks like one more stunt to distract Americans from the misdeeds of his boss, President Donald Trump. But it’s also a statement about the persistence of the death penalty itself, despite everything wrong with it—its cost, its failure to deter crime, the long list of death-row inmates who turned out to be innocent.” → Read on.

What Else We’re Reading

Warren moves to outflank Trump on trade (Alex Thompson and Adam Behsudi, Politico)

Marie Newman could shape the future of the Democratic Party (Rebecca Grant, The Nation) (🔒Paywall)

The story about Elijah Cummings’s district that Trump isn’t interested in telling (Philip Bump, The Washington Post) (🔒Paywall)

About us: This newsletter is a daily effort from The Atlantic’s politics writer Elaine Godfrey, with help from Christian Paz. It’s edited by Shan Wang.

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