Trump says he slowed COVID testing; Navy to punish carrier’s ex-CO; NSA’s new telework advice; Sparring over roboships; And a bit more.

The Trump campaign dramatically underwhelmed in coronavirus-hit Tulsa on Saturday, where only a fraction of the expected attendees showed. It was the president’s first rally since the outbreak of the pandemic in March, and some officials billed it as his “comeback”; but the gap between expectations and reality was impossible to miss. 

Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale played up those expectations late last week, predicting a crowd of more than 800,000 (based, at least in part, on online registrations) for an arena with a capacity of less than 20,000. 

Only 6,200 people showed up and the arena wasn’t even half-full, according to the Tulsa fire department and the New York Times. POTUS and VPOTUS were reportedly “stunned” by the modest numbers attending, the Times’ Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni reported Sunday evening.

  • Critical context: Oklahoma has been experiencing an upsurge in COVID cases over the past several days, with the largest outbreaks hitting Guymon in the panhandle, Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The Times’ has more detailed analysis for Oklahoma, here

Update: 119,997 Americans have died from coronavirus complications to date, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker

And “The World Health Organization reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases on Sunday, with the total rising by 183,020 in a 24-hour period,” Reuters reported Sunday evening. 

BTW, in Tulsa, “The vast majority of the attendees, including Trump, did not wear face masks as recommended by the Trump administration’s health experts,” AP reports in its coverage of Saturday evening.

As for Trump’s message in Tulsa, the Times writes “he excoriated the ‘fake news’ for reporting on health concerns before his event, used racist language to describe the coronavirus as the ‘Kung Flu’ and spent more than 15 minutes explaining away an unflattering video clip of him gingerly descending a ramp after his commencement speech at West Point.” AP adds that he “defend[ed] Confederate statues while making racist references to the coronavirus,” and “also said Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who came to the U.S. as a refugee, ‘would like to make the government of our country just like the country from where she came, Somalia.’”

One of Trump’s messages that got a lot of attention: Coronavirus “Testing is a double-edged sword,” POTUS said, adding, “when you do testing to that extent you’re gonna find more people you’re gonna find more cases.” He added that the U.S. has tested some 25 million people to date; and “When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people; you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down please.’”

Damage control: Trump was only “kidding,” his trade adviser Peter Navarro told CNN on Sunday. And much later that evening, Trump chimed in on all this on Twitter, tweeting just before 1 a.m., “Our Coronavirus testing is so much greater (25 million tests) and so much more advanced, that it makes us look like we have more cases, especially proportionally, than other countries. My message on that is very clear!”

Bigger picture: “The day after Trump’s Tulsa rally, the president’s message was almost an afterthought,” AP reports this morning, “as aides tried to explain away a smaller-than-expected crowd that left the president outraged.”

What does POTUS have planned for today? Lunch, and that’s it, according to his public schedule. Meantime, AP notes “It’s unclear when Trump will hold his next rally.”

From Defense One

Navy to Punish Fired Captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt // Bradley Peniston: In a reversal, the service’s top officer says further investigation revealed lapses in Capt. Brett Crozier’s judgment and actions aboard his COVID-stricken ship.

Defund the Europeans // Harvey M. Sapolsky and Benjamin H. Friedman: The U.S. never intended its German garrison to be permanent.

Ending Accompanied Tours to the Gulf Is a Message Delivered at a Cost // Kirsten Fontenrose: The Pentagon wants Iran — and U.S. allies — to pay close attention to its decision to keep troops’ families out of the region.

The Pentagon Must Not Falter in Its Drive To Network Its Weapons and Sensors // Seth Cropsey: American military superiority depends on a complete and successful integration of all services’ forces.

Congress Has Less Than a Month to Ward Off Needless Harm to the US Military // Rep. Ken Calvert: The ranking member of the House’s Defense Appropriations panel lays out how it would hurt to start fiscal 2021 with a continuing resolution.

NSA Has New Guidance for Teleworking Feds // Mariam Baksh, Nextgov: Products, and the way the NSA regards them, are changing quickly.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1990, Checkpoint Charlie was destroyed in Berlin.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi threatened to intervene in Libya to protect Egypt’s borders and secure Libyans, according to a message spotted Saturday by Middle East analyst Hassan Hassan and reposted to Twitter.
“Any direct intervention from the Egyptian state has now acquired international legitimacy,” Sisi insisted after inspecting military units at Matrouh, on Egypt’s border with Libya on Saturday. Reuters has more from that messaging out of that air base, here.
What Sisi wants, according to al-Jazeera: For “forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli not to cross the current front line between them and forces loyal to renegade commander Khalifa Haftar, whom Cairo backs.” For the Egyptian president, the Libyan cities of Sirte and Jafra are his “red line,” he said Saturday.
FWIW: A GNA commander told AJ that they still plan to march toward Sirte and enter that city, despite Sisi’s warning.
Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE backed Sisi’s message, with the former writing that it “stands by and supports Egypt on the right to protect its borders and people.”
The U.S. formally responded late Sunday evening, with the White House National Security Council warning on Twitter, “The United States strongly opposes military escalation in #Libya — on all sides. We urge parties to commit to a ceasefire and resume negotiations immediately. We must build on progress made through the UN‘s 5+5 talks, the Cairo Initiative, and the Berlin process.”

Ex-CO of COVID-stricken aircraft carrier to be punished. In a reversal, the Navy announced that Capt. Brett Crozier will not be reinstated as commander of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. Instead, he, the ship’s air wing commander, and its chief of medical operations will be punished for their failure to properly react to the spread of COVID-19 aboard the ship earlier this year, the Navy’s top officer said Friday.
Crozier was fired on April 4 by then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly after Crozier sent an email begging for help in getting his crew off their infected ship. At the time, Modly said he lost confidence in Crozier for breaching the chain of command to plead for help that was, in fact, already arriving.
That characterization of Crozier’s email and actions was essentially confirmed by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday, who said Friday his new decision is based upon a broader investigation. The Navy released a redacted version of the investigation’s finding. “Had I known then what I know now, I would have called for his removal,” the CNO said of the captain. Read on, here.

Navy wants more money for robot ships, but Congress isn’t convinced. Defense News: “In the latest sign of Congressional ambivalence on unmanned surface warships, the House Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee called for restricting funding for procurement of any large unmanned surface vessels – LUSVs – until the Navy can certify it has worked out an appropriate hull, mechanical and electrical system and that it can operate autonomously for 30 days consecutively.” Read on, here.

Happening today: 

  • Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord is slated to deliver a coronavirus update to reporters at 11:00 a.m. from the Pentagon Briefing Room. Stream it live on DVIDS, here.
  • Then at 12:45 p.m. ET, Director of Defense Research and Engineering for Advanced Capabilities James Faist, and Deputy Director of Developmental Test, Evaluation and Prototyping Timothy Dare, address a webinar for the National Defense Industrial Association Science & Engineering Technology Division. Details here.
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