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Welcome to week five of The Uprising! This is the first week that most of the newsletter will only be available to paid subscribers.
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FLORIDA MAN: A newly surfaced video from former President Trump’s private club in Florida shows the kind of material we might expect when he makes his planned return to campaign trail rallies this summer. In the clip, Trump is standing at a podium in a Mar-A-Lago ballroom and recounting a visit to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
“He’s not big on press coming in. I don’t think he’d ever done it before,” Trump said. “And the press came in and they were rough, not so much with him — even not so much with me — but the way they poured in, physically they tried to push guards down. And fortunately, these were North Korea guards. They didn’t get pushed down.”
There’s a chance Trump may have said “unfortunately,” but the overall intent of the remark — mocking tough physical treatment of the press by the authoritarian Kim’s guards — is clear. After telling the tale, Trump began to chuckle and the audience laughed along with him.
“It was a rough kind of a day for the press,” Trump added.
The video was posted on Instagram by a pro-Trump account on Saturday. However, based on the former president’s attire, the ballroom decorations, and other clips posted on the account, it seems to be from Trump’s appearance at a “Lincoln Day” fundraiser for the Republican Party of Palm Beach County that was held on April 17. That event featured appearances by Trump and two other potential 2024 Republican candidates, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Instagram account that posted the Trump clip also featured one of Pompeo.
None of Trump’s remarks at the event have previously been reported. Trump’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
During his time in office, President Trump joked about violence against reporters. This coincided with rising violence against journalists in the U.S. with attacks from both the former president’s supporters and left wing protesters. President Trump also repeatedly made comments about violence against protesters and his political opponents.
Critics regularly argued that this rhetoric encouraged violence, and Trump was impeached earlier this year for “incitement” of the January 6 attack. While 17 Republicans in the two chambers of Congress voted with Democrats to impeach Trump, he was ultimately acquitted by the GOP majority in the Senate.
Tickets to the “Lincoln Day” event at Mar-A-Lago cost a minimum of $425. Guests were able to pay up to $25,000 for a “presidential” sponsorship that came with “ten VIP tickets, preferential seating” and a “Platinum full page Ad” with recognition in a “Tribute Journal” printed for the event.
Like much of Trump’s life since leaving office, glimpses of the dinner were found on social media.
Based on clips and pictures posted by Mar-A-Lago visitors and members in the roughly four months since Trump left office, his days and nights at the club mainly seem to consist of golf, meetings, and showing up at dinners and parties where he is cheered by faithful supporters.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: After Trump was deplatformed by social media sites following the January 6 attack, a vocal contingent on Twitter has criticized coverage of the former president and argued he should be ignored. I do not remotely agree with this.
While polls show Trump’s support within the GOP is declining, he still remains a potent force in the political landscape. And, if January 6 has taught us anything, it’s that violent political rhetoric cannot be ignored.
LAW & ORDER: President Biden is planning to meet with the family of George Floyd on Tuesday to mark the anniversary of his death last year. The civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who has represented the family, told The Uprising that he will be present for the meeting with Biden.
Crump sat down with The Uprising earlier this month to discuss his work — including in the ongoing Andrew Brown Jr. case and lobbying for police reform legislation in Congress. In the full version of that conversation, which was exclusively available to Uprising subscribers, he talked about the potential for a meeting with Biden and his desire to see the president get more “engaged” if the police reform legislation seems unlikely to pass.
“I think that’s coming in the near future. Because I do think, if the Congress doesn’t do what they’re expected to do, then he has to get more engaged if they don’t do what is expected,” Crump said.
ORIGIN STORY: The Wall Street Journal published a blockbuster story on Sunday, citing a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report, that “three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care.” While the report said the trio had “symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness,” the incident occurred around the time the virus was first seen in Wuhan and is likely to fuel debate about whether the coronavirus pandemic began with an accident or leak in that lab.
While the idea of a lab leak was initially seen as a fringe theory, it has gained credence among experts in recent months. A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council told the Journal they “continue to have serious questions about the earliest days of the Covid-19 pandemic, including its origins within the People’s Republic of China.”
Any examination of a potentially unnatural element in the origin of the pandemic, which has led to over 3.4 million deaths around the world, is likely to be affected by tensions stemming from the fraught U.S. relationship with China. Beijing has denied the lab played any role in the start of the virus and suggested — without evidence — that American soldiers in the country may have brought the disease there.
CON AIR: A brazen “act of aviation piracy” by Belarus has put pressure on Western nations to respond.
Belarus’ president, Alexander Lukashenko, who has been dubbed “Europe’s last dictator,” personally ordered a fighter jet to bring down a Ryanair plane that was flying over his country’s air space en route between Greece and Lithuania. While Belarusian officials have said the decision was due to a bomb threat, they removed one of the country’s leading opposition activists, Roman Protasevich, from the flight and arrested him. The plane was then allowed to continue on without him.
In social media posts, Protasevich indicated he believed he was being monitored before taking off in Athens. Ryanair’s CEO, who called the incident “a case of state-sponsored hijacking” has said Protasevich’s traveling companion and members of Belarus’ intelligence agency, which is still called the KGB, were also offloaded from the flight. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement on Sunday demanding Protasevich’s “immediate release.”
“The United States strongly condemns the forced diversion of a flight between two EU member states and the subsequent removal and arrest,” Blinken said.
European Union leaders are set to discuss the incident at a summit on Monday and NATO ambassadors are meeting on Tuesday.
FUN FACT: According to the government of Belarus, “sport plays an important role in the life of the President of Belarus” and Lukashenko “has been fond of sport since childhood.” Lukashenko’s official webpage claims “he spends several hours a day exercising” and describes him as being “known all over the world as a leader of an amateur ice hockey team.”
Lukashenko has ruled Belarus since 1994 and, while he has denied it, he is widely rumored to be preparing to have his son, Nikolai, succeed him. His website notes that Lukashenko’s “sons are also fond of hockey” and “The President’s younger son Nikolai plays with him on the same team.”
“By his personal example, the President shows how important exercising is for a person,” Lukashenko’s site says, adding, “Children need to see sporty and active parents, use them as role models to build their character. Our health depends on every one of us. … The health of the nation depends on every one of us.”
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