President Donald Trump has decided to postpone his first post-coronavirus lockdown election rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, so it does not fall on Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of US slavery.
He tweeted that the June 19 rally would be held a day later out of respect for Juneteenth.
The choice of date had drawn criticism amid nationwide anti-racism protests.
The location was also controversial, as Tulsa saw one of the worst massacres of black people in US history in 1921.
Up to 300 people died when a white mob attacked the prosperous black neighborhood of Greenwood, known as the “Black Wall Street”, with guns and explosives. About 1,000 businesses and homes were also destroyed.
Juneteenth is not a federal holiday, but is widely celebrated by African Americans.
It celebrates the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved African Americans in Texas.
Texas was the last state of the Confederacy – the slaveholding southern states that seceded, triggering the Civil War – to receive the proclamation, on June 19, 1865, months after the end of the war.
President Trump initially defended the timing of his rally, telling Fox News: “Think about it as a celebration. My rally is a celebration. In the history of politics, I think I can say there’s never been any group or any person that’s had rallies like I do.”
However, critics accused the president of disrespecting the date and the significance of Tulsa to US history.
Explaining the decision to move his rally, President Trump tweeted: “Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents. I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20th, in order to honor their requests…”
The “Make America Great Again” rally in Tulsa will be Donald Trump’s first campaign event since March 2, when the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to mass gatherings.
President Trump is seeking re-election in November 2020, but polls show him lagging behind his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
Campaign rallies are seen as a key method of energizing his base, and Oklahoma is traditionally a Republican-voting state.
The event will proceed against a backdrop of ongoing protests against racial inequality and police brutality, triggered by the death of African American man George Floyd on May 25. George Floyd, who was unarmed, died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota after a policeman knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
The rally is being held in a 19,000-seat indoor arena, and concerns have been raised about the potential risks.
Oklahoma has one of the US lowest infection rates, and businesses are reopening – but the state’s Governor Kevin Stitt has urged residents to keep social distancing and to “minimize time spent in crowded environments”.
People buying tickets for the Tulsa rally online have to click on a waiver confirming that they “voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19” and will not hold the president’s campaign responsible for “any illness or injury”.
President Trump has announced he plans to hold further events in Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Arizona.
President Donald Trump says he has spoken to Attorney General William Barr about tracing the origins of the inquiry that cleared him of colluding with Russia.
The Republican president described the investigation by former FBI director Robert Mueller as “an attempted coup”.
William Barr meanwhile said he believes US authorities did spy on the Trump campaign.
US intelligence officials have previously said they were spying on the Russians, not the Trump campaign.
Speaking to reporters at the White House on April 10, President Trump railed against the Department of Justice inquiry into whether the Trump campaign had conspired with the Kremlin to sway the 2016 election.
The investigation cleared him and his aides of collusion, making no determination on whether they had tried to obstruct justice.
President Trump said: “This was an attempted coup. This was an attempted take-down of a president. And we beat them. We beat them.
“So the Mueller report, when they talk about obstruction we fight back. And do you know why we fight back?
“Because I knew how illegal this whole thing was. It was a scam.
“What I’m most interested in is getting started, hopefully the attorney general, he mentioned it yesterday.
“He’s doing a great job, getting started on going back to the origins of exactly where this all started.
“Because this was an illegal witch hunt, and everybody knew it. And they knew it too. And they got caught. And what they did was treason.”
While President Trump was flying off to Texas, William Barr was appearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The attorney general was asked whether spying occurred on the Trump campaign during the 2016 White House race.
“I think spying did occur,” he said.
“The question is whether it was adequately predicated.
“I’m not suggesting it was not adequately predicated, but I need to explore that.”
William Barr said he did not understand why intelligence officials chose not to warn the Trump campaign that it could be vulnerable to infiltration.
He praised the “outstanding” FBI as a whole, but told the panel: “I think there was probably a failure among the group of leaders.”
He added: “I feel I have an obligation to make sure government power is not abused.”
President Trump and his conservative allies have repeatedly suggested the Obama administration planted a mole in his presidential campaign to undercut his candidacy.
The former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was asked on ABC in May 2018 if the FBI had indeed snooped on the Trump team.
James Clapper replied: “No, they were not. They were spying on – a term I don’t particularly like – but on what the Russians were doing.
“Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage and influence which is what they do.”
The same day in an interview with CNN, James Clapper said: “The objective here was actually to protect the campaign by determining whether the Russians were infiltrating it and attempting to exert influence.”
According to the New York Times last year, the FBI sent an informant, an unnamed US academic who teaches in the UK, to speak to two low-level Trump aides, George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, after the agency became suspicious of the pair’s Russian contacts.
According to recent reports, President Donald Trump has appointed lawyer Marc Kasowitz to represent him in an inquiry into Russia’s alleged meddling in the presidential election and any links to the Trump campaign.
President Trump has used services of the New York lawyer – known as a tenacious litigator – for more than a decade.
Donald Trump denies any collusion between his campaign and Russia.
Image source kasowitz.com
However, US intelligence agencies believe Russia tried to tip the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump.
Marc Kasowitz and the White House have so far made no public comments on the reported appointment.
He is well known to Donald Trump, and it was he who – during the presidential campaign – threatened to sue the New York Times if it didn’t retract a story about Donald Trump touching women inappropriately.
The New York Times stood by its story and a retraction was never published.