33rd U.S.-ASEAN Dialogue: Strengthening U.S.-ASEAN Relations

5 Aug

Office of the Spokesperson

Assistant Secretary David R. Stilwell of the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs co-chaired the 33rd U.S.-ASEAN Dialogue on August 4th, Washington, D.C. time (August 5th, Vientiane time) together with Deputy Foreign Minister Thongphane Savanphet of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The dialogue highlighted the broad range of U.S.-ASEAN cooperation across political-security, economic, and socio-cultural pillars, while underscoring the importance of the U.S.-ASEAN Strategic Partnership in securing a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

The United States reaffirmed its commitment to work with ASEAN in securing a region based on clear and transparent rules, and to strengthen the ASEAN-centered regional architecture.  Participants reaffirmed the need for peaceful dispute resolution in the South China Sea in accordance with international law as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling.  The United States reaffirmed its intent to expand its partnerships in the Mekong to promote sovereignty, economic independence, and a transparent, rules-based approach to solving trans-boundary challenges.

The United States also stressed that the DPRK must halt provocations, abide by its obligations under the UNSCRs, and engage in sustained negotiations with the United States to achieve complete denuclearization, and urged ASEAN countries to continue implementing and enforcing UN sanctions. Expressing concern over the continued violence in Rakhine state, the United States called for a cessation of fighting, a negotiated solution, and deepened efforts to address root causes of violence to facilitate the dignified, safe, voluntary, and sustainable return of IDPs and refugees.  The United States reiterated that Beijing’s imposition of draconian national security legislation dramatically undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Participants welcomed the continued growth of economic ties between the United States and ASEAN.  They agreed on the importance of sustainable, transparent growth that promotes ASEAN resilience against unsustainable debt, especially during the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.  The United States also highlighted its “All of America” approach and the role the private sector, academia, and civil society play in economic development.

The United States highlighted the growing U.S.-ASEAN Health Futures initiative, including over $87 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance to combat COVID-19 in ASEAN.  The U.S.-ASEAN Health Futures Alumni Network, a group of 2,400 alumni of U.S. exchange program alumni, is building relationships between U.S. and ASEAN public health practitioners for a safer and healthier future for our combined one billion population. The United States further highlighted the U.S.-ASEAN Smart Cities partnership and its programs in water, transportation, cybersecurity, and health that will improve the lives of the people of ASEAN.  Participants also discussed expanding quality educational and training opportunities, empowering women and girls, and preparing our communities for the economy of tomorrow to develop human capital and ensure a brighter future on both sides of the Pacific.

Participants looked forward to further strengthening the U.S.-ASEAN relationship at the U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and the U.S.-ASEAN Summit in November.

 

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The United States Imposes Sanctions on Zimbabwean Businessman Kudakwashe Tagwirei

5 Aug

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Two years ago, Zimbabwean authorities launched a violent crackdown against citizens who were protesting flawed elections. That same government has yet to hold anyone accountable for the six protestors who were killed that day. To mark the anniversary of their deaths, today the United States is taking action to fight corruption in Zimbabwe.

Pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13469, the United States is imposing sanctions against Kudakwashe Regimond Tagwirei, a notoriously corrupt Zimbabwean businessman, for materially assisting senior Zimbabwean government officials involved in public corruption.  Sakunda Holdings was also sanctioned for being owned or controlled by Tagwirei.

Tagwirei has longstanding ties to the ruling party in Zimbabwe and high-level governmental officials, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa and First Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who were listed in the Annex to E.O. 13288 in March 2003. He has used his relationships to gain state contracts and receive favored access to hard currency, including U.S. dollars, especially in the Mnangagwa era.

Tagwirei is also the Chief Executive Officer of Zimbabwe-based Sakunda Holdings.  Government audit reports prompted a 2019 parliamentary inquiry into whether public funds were misappropriated, revealing the government had failed to account for about $3 billion disbursed under the Command Agriculture program, a state farm subsidy championed by President Mnangagwa and largely financed by Sakunda Holdings.

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control concurrently removed today from the sanctions list a deceased person, John Bredenkamp, and associated entities who were previously designated under E.O. 13469.  This action ensures the sanctions list remains up to date and targets actors who actively undermine democracy in Zimbabwe.

The United States supports a stable and democratic Zimbabwe.  Our actions today demonstrate to the government and people of Zimbabwe that the United States does not tolerate public corruption and will promote accountability for perpetrators of public corruption.

 

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NEW VIDEO: Trump Golfs as Economy Crumbles and Americans Suffer From His Failed Coronavirus Response

5 Aug

It’s been more than six months since the first coronavirus cases were reported in the U.S., and because Trump has failed to get the virus under control, the economy is crumbling. As a result, 30 million Americans are unemployed, over 100,000 small businesses have permanently shuttered, millions of families are facing evictions, and as of last week, tens of millions have lost half of their income after Trump let enhanced unemployment benefits expire.

The DNC War Room’s latest video, “Golf Course,” slams Trump for standing on the green instead of getting to work to help solve this unprecedented economic and public health crisis. Rather than presenting a national testing strategy, listening to experts, and outlining a plan to reopen schools safely, Trump has spent his time golfing.

WATCH HERE:

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Trump’s Attacks on The Census and USPS Undermine Our Democracy

5 Aug

As the American people deal with the devastating consequences of his failed coronavirus response, Trump has been busy working to sabotage the census and undermine mail-in voting — all in a shameless effort to ensure he and his party benefit politically.

The Trump administration has announced it will stop all census counting a month earlier than previously planned, threatening to undercount marginalized communities.

NPR: “These last-minute changes to the constitutionally mandated count of every person living in the U.S. threaten the accuracy of population numbers used to determine the distribution of political representation and federal funding for the next decade. With roughly 4 out of 10 households nationwide yet to be counted, and already delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, the bureau now has less than two months left to try to reach people of color, immigrants, renters, rural residents and other members of historically undercounted groups who are not likely to fill out a census form on their own.”

And after Trump’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the census were rebuffed by the Supreme Court, he pressured the Census Bureau to provide data that would benefit the Republican Party politically. 

Politico: “Dillingham also said the bureau ‘continues its work on meeting the requirements’ of two Trump orders: a July 2019 executive order that asked administrative agencies to collect data on undocumented immigrants in order to provide counts that states could use to draw state legislative maps that did not include those people; and a presidential memorandum from last month instructing the Census Bureau to calculate apportionment counts — the number of congressional seats each state will have in the next decade — without undocumented immigrants included.  ‘A team of experts are examining methodologies and options to be employed for this purpose,’ Dillingham said.”

Politico: “Excluding these immigrants would likely benefit Republicans in future elections for Congress and the presidency. According to the University of Virginia Center for Politics, a count that did not include undocumented immigrants would mean California would lose two House seats, not the one seat the state is projected to lose in the next decade. Fast-growing Texas, increasingly a competitive state, would gain two seats instead of three. New Jersey would lose a seat.  Alabama and Ohio, meanwhile, would each gain a seat under a count that excluded undocumented immigrants — though they are not currently projected to gain seats under a conventional count.”

Meanwhile, Trump fundraiser-turned-Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s mismanagement of USPS has caused massive slowdowns, which could disrupt an election in which a record number of voters are expected to vote by mail.

Washington Post: “DeJoy, a North Carolina logistics executive who donated more than $2 million to GOP political committees in the past four years, approved changes that took effect July 13 that the agency said were aimed at cutting costs for the debt-laden mail service. They included prohibiting overtime pay, shutting down sorting machines early and requiring letter carriers to leave mail behind when necessary to avoid extra trips or late delivery on routes.”

Washington Post: “The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing days-long backlogs of mail across the country after a top Trump donor running the agency put in place new procedures described as cost-cutting efforts, alarming postal workers who warn that the policies could undermine their ability to deliver ballots on time for the November election.”

Washington Post: “As President Trump ramps up his unfounded attacks on mail balloting as being susceptible to widespread fraud, postal employees and union officials say the changes implemented by Trump fundraiser-turned-postmaster general Louis DeJoy are contributing to a growing perception that mail delays are the result of a political effort to undermine absentee voting.”

After the slowdowns were implemented, Trump worked to further undermine confidence in the USPS’s ability to handle election mail. 

CNN: “Later Monday, Trump again slammed mail-in ballots during a press briefing, saying, ‘How are you going to do that for an entire nation? They’re using Covid to try and get the mail-in ballots. ‘The Post Office for many, many years has been, you know, run in a fashion that hasn’t been great—great workers and everything, but they have old equipment, very old equipment,’ Trump added. ‘And I don’t think the Post Office is prepared for a thing like this. You have to ask the people at the Post Office, but how can the Post Office be expected to handle?’”

New York Times: “In tweet after all-caps tweet, Mr. Trump has warned that allowing people to vote by mail will result in a ‘CORRUPT ELECTION’ that will ‘LEAD TO THE END OF OUR GREAT REPUBLICAN PARTY’ and become the ‘SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES.’ He has predicted that children will steal ballots out of mailboxes.”

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Trump’s Attacks on The Census and USPS Undermine Our Democracy

5 Aug

As the American people deal with the devastating consequences of his failed coronavirus response, Trump has been busy working to sabotage the census and undermine mail-in voting — all in a shameless effort to ensure he and his party benefit politically.

The Trump administration has announced it will stop all census counting a month earlier than previously planned, threatening to undercount marginalized communities.

NPR: “These last-minute changes to the constitutionally mandated count of every person living in the U.S. threaten the accuracy of population numbers used to determine the distribution of political representation and federal funding for the next decade. With roughly 4 out of 10 households nationwide yet to be counted, and already delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, the bureau now has less than two months left to try to reach people of color, immigrants, renters, rural residents and other members of historically undercounted groups who are not likely to fill out a census form on their own.”

And after Trump’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the census were rebuffed by the Supreme Court, he pressured the Census Bureau to provide data that would benefit the Republican Party politically. 

Politico: “Dillingham also said the bureau ‘continues its work on meeting the requirements’ of two Trump orders: a July 2019 executive order that asked administrative agencies to collect data on undocumented immigrants in order to provide counts that states could use to draw state legislative maps that did not include those people; and a presidential memorandum from last month instructing the Census Bureau to calculate apportionment counts — the number of congressional seats each state will have in the next decade — without undocumented immigrants included.  ‘A team of experts are examining methodologies and options to be employed for this purpose,’ Dillingham said.”

Politico: “Excluding these immigrants would likely benefit Republicans in future elections for Congress and the presidency. According to the University of Virginia Center for Politics, a count that did not include undocumented immigrants would mean California would lose two House seats, not the one seat the state is projected to lose in the next decade. Fast-growing Texas, increasingly a competitive state, would gain two seats instead of three. New Jersey would lose a seat.  Alabama and Ohio, meanwhile, would each gain a seat under a count that excluded undocumented immigrants — though they are not currently projected to gain seats under a conventional count.”

Meanwhile, Trump fundraiser-turned-Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s mismanagement of USPS has caused massive slowdowns, which could disrupt an election in which a record number of voters are expected to vote by mail.

Washington Post: “DeJoy, a North Carolina logistics executive who donated more than $2 million to GOP political committees in the past four years, approved changes that took effect July 13 that the agency said were aimed at cutting costs for the debt-laden mail service. They included prohibiting overtime pay, shutting down sorting machines early and requiring letter carriers to leave mail behind when necessary to avoid extra trips or late delivery on routes.”

Washington Post: “The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing days-long backlogs of mail across the country after a top Trump donor running the agency put in place new procedures described as cost-cutting efforts, alarming postal workers who warn that the policies could undermine their ability to deliver ballots on time for the November election.”

Washington Post: “As President Trump ramps up his unfounded attacks on mail balloting as being susceptible to widespread fraud, postal employees and union officials say the changes implemented by Trump fundraiser-turned-postmaster general Louis DeJoy are contributing to a growing perception that mail delays are the result of a political effort to undermine absentee voting.”

After the slowdowns were implemented, Trump worked to further undermine confidence in the USPS’s ability to handle election mail. 

CNN: “Later Monday, Trump again slammed mail-in ballots during a press briefing, saying, ‘How are you going to do that for an entire nation? They’re using Covid to try and get the mail-in ballots. ‘The Post Office for many, many years has been, you know, run in a fashion that hasn’t been great—great workers and everything, but they have old equipment, very old equipment,’ Trump added. ‘And I don’t think the Post Office is prepared for a thing like this. You have to ask the people at the Post Office, but how can the Post Office be expected to handle?’”

New York Times: “In tweet after all-caps tweet, Mr. Trump has warned that allowing people to vote by mail will result in a ‘CORRUPT ELECTION’ that will ‘LEAD TO THE END OF OUR GREAT REPUBLICAN PARTY’ and become the ‘SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES.’ He has predicted that children will steal ballots out of mailboxes.”

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Trump Administration Confirms China Isn’t Living Up To Trump’s Trade Deal

5 Aug

Once again, data from Trump’s own administration confirms that the China trade deal he staked his reelection on has been a failure. After losing the trade war he started, Trump settled for a bad deal, and was so eager to secure it that he let China off the hook on the coronavirus, which has cost over 155,000 American lives and wreaked havoc on our economy. Now, China isn’t even living up to its purchase agreements. Trump promised to get tough on China, but he got played instead.

New data from Trump’s Commerce Department confirmed that through the first half of the year China was still $120 billion short of its trade deal commitments for 2020 and even behind pre-trade war levels.

January 2020-June 2020: The U.S. exported $49.5 billion in goods to China.

Bloomberg: “By the end of the first half of this year, China had bought about 23% of the total purchase target of more than $170 billion for goods in 2020, according to Bloomberg calculations based on Chinese Customs Administration data.”

January 2017-June 2017: The U.S. exported $58.9 billion in goods to China.

Despite data to the contrary, the Trump administration continues to take China at its word that they’re living up to the trade deal.

LIGHTHIZER: “Every contact I’ve had with the Chinese, they have reaffirmed their commitment to living up to the agreement.”

MNUCHIN: “I have every expectation that they will. They have continued to tell us they will, as recently as last week when Secretary Pompeo met with one of the senior people who flew in from China and they had a summit. So I have that expectation that they will live up to their obligation.”

TRUMP: “They’ve been living up to the deal. They’re buying a lot of — a lot of things. They never had any deal. They just came in and took advantage of the United States. Took out hundreds of billions of dollars a year. So they don’t do that anymore.”

TRUMP: “They’re buying. You know, I made a trade deal, and it’s a wonderful deal… The deal with China was a great deal.”

Trump has even repeatedly claimed China would buy far more than the $200 billion target.

TRUMP: “But we have an additional $200 [billion]. They are going to be what — what is, to me, very important. Number one, they’re going to be spending much more than $200 billion over the next two years, including up to $50 billion just on agriculture alone.” [Trump Remarks At Signing Of The U.S.-China Phase One Trade Agreement, Washington DC, 1/15/20]

TRUMP: “It’s far greater than $200 billion, and it’ll grow every year.” [Trump Remarks In Luncheon With Vice Premier Liu He Of The People’s Republic Of China, Washington DC, 1/15/20]

TRUMP: “But– the deal is a phenomenal deal. We will take in $250 billion– they’re going to be buying $250 billion, and it could go a lot higher than that.” [Squawk Box, CNBC, 1/22/20]

TRUMP: “So we’ll be taking in an excess of $200 billion; could be closer to $300 billion when it finishes.” [Trump Remarks At The World Economic Forum, Davos CH, 1/21/20]

TRUMP: “I did a trade deal with China, where China is supposed to be spending $250 billion in our country.”

TRUMP: “So I just made a deal with China where they’re going to put in $250 billion of product.  They’re going to be — they’re going to be buying $250- — 50; from 40 to 50 — billion in farm.”

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Trump Administration Confirms China Isn’t Living Up To Trump’s Trade Deal

5 Aug

Once again, data from Trump’s own administration confirms that the China trade deal he staked his reelection on has been a failure. After losing the trade war he started, Trump settled for a bad deal, and was so eager to secure it that he let China off the hook on the coronavirus, which has cost over 155,000 American lives and wreaked havoc on our economy. Now, China isn’t even living up to its purchase agreements. Trump promised to get tough on China, but he got played instead.

New data from Trump’s Commerce Department confirmed that through the first half of the year China was still $120 billion short of its trade deal commitments for 2020 and even behind pre-trade war levels.

January 2020-June 2020: The U.S. exported $49.5 billion in goods to China.

Bloomberg: “By the end of the first half of this year, China had bought about 23% of the total purchase target of more than $170 billion for goods in 2020, according to Bloomberg calculations based on Chinese Customs Administration data.”

January 2017-June 2017: The U.S. exported $58.9 billion in goods to China.

Despite data to the contrary, the Trump administration continues to take China at its word that they’re living up to the trade deal.

LIGHTHIZER: “Every contact I’ve had with the Chinese, they have reaffirmed their commitment to living up to the agreement.”

MNUCHIN: “I have every expectation that they will. They have continued to tell us they will, as recently as last week when Secretary Pompeo met with one of the senior people who flew in from China and they had a summit. So I have that expectation that they will live up to their obligation.”

TRUMP: “They’ve been living up to the deal. They’re buying a lot of — a lot of things. They never had any deal. They just came in and took advantage of the United States. Took out hundreds of billions of dollars a year. So they don’t do that anymore.”

TRUMP: “They’re buying. You know, I made a trade deal, and it’s a wonderful deal… The deal with China was a great deal.”

Trump has even repeatedly claimed China would buy far more than the $200 billion target.

TRUMP: “But we have an additional $200 [billion]. They are going to be what — what is, to me, very important. Number one, they’re going to be spending much more than $200 billion over the next two years, including up to $50 billion just on agriculture alone.” [Trump Remarks At Signing Of The U.S.-China Phase One Trade Agreement, Washington DC, 1/15/20]

TRUMP: “It’s far greater than $200 billion, and it’ll grow every year.” [Trump Remarks In Luncheon With Vice Premier Liu He Of The People’s Republic Of China, Washington DC, 1/15/20]

TRUMP: “But– the deal is a phenomenal deal. We will take in $250 billion– they’re going to be buying $250 billion, and it could go a lot higher than that.” [Squawk Box, CNBC, 1/22/20]

TRUMP: “So we’ll be taking in an excess of $200 billion; could be closer to $300 billion when it finishes.” [Trump Remarks At The World Economic Forum, Davos CH, 1/21/20]

TRUMP: “I did a trade deal with China, where China is supposed to be spending $250 billion in our country.”

TRUMP: “So I just made a deal with China where they’re going to put in $250 billion of product.  They’re going to be — they’re going to be buying $250- — 50; from 40 to 50 — billion in farm.”

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WATCH: Trump Says Coronavirus ‘Will Go Away’ And Children Are ‘Almost Immune’

5 Aug

On Fox and Friends this morning, Trump said schools should fully reopen, even though he doesn’t have a plan to ensure it is done safely, because the coronavirus “will go away like things go away” and children are “almost immune to this disease.” That’s false:

Trump said schools should reopen because coronavirus “will go away like things go away” and children are “almost immune from this disease.”

TRUMP: “This thing’s going away. It will go away like things go away.”

TRUMP: “Children are almost, and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease.”

But the coronavirus does pose risks for children and their families, and the more we learn, the clearer it becomes how risky fully reopening schools would be.

Axios: “There’s not much good news about kids and coronavirus”

Axios: “The more we learn about kids and the coronavirus, the riskier reopening schools for in-person learning appears to be, at least in areas with high caseloads.”

Numerous studies have shown that children are susceptible to infection and can spread the coronavirus at least as well as adults do. 

New York Times: “A large new study from South Korea offers an answer: Children younger than 10 transmit to others much less often than adults do, but the risk is not zero. And those between the ages of 10 and 19 can spread the virus at least as well as adults do.”

Washington Post: “A new report suggests that children of all ages are susceptible to coronavirus infection and may also spread it to others — a finding likely to intensify an already fraught discussion about the risks of sending children back to school this fall. The analysis, released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, details an outbreak at a sleep-away camp in Georgia last month in which 260 children and staffers — more than three-quarters of the 344 tested — contracted the virus less than a week after spending time together in close quarters.”

The American people know the risk of fully reopening schools without a plan. New polling shows that opposition to reopening schools at the end of summer is rising.

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Trump Calls Testing ‘An Amazing Achievement,’ Despite Still Having No Testing Strategy

5 Aug

Trump claims that testing has been “an amazing achievement” and his administration says there is nothing more they can do, even as testing problems persist and Trump still has no national testing strategy to help contain the coronavirus.

Last night, Trump said that testing has been “an amazing achievement.”

TRUMP: “It’s been an amazing achievement, the testing.”

Trump still has no national testing strategy and persistent testing delays have hindered the pandemic response.

Washington Post: “There’s no national testing strategy for coronavirus. These states banded together to make one.”

New York Times: “‘It’s Like Having No Testing’: Coronavirus Test Results Are Still Delayed”

Trump announced a plan to provide every nursing home with a fast COVID-19 testing machine. But he won’t supply enough test kits.

Associated Press: “The Trump administration’s plan to provide every nursing home with a fast COVID-19 testing machine comes with an asterisk: The government won’t supply enough test kits to check staff and residents beyond an initial couple of rounds. A program that sounded like a game changer when it was announced last month at the White House is now prompting concerns that it could turn into another unfulfilled promise for nursing homes, whose residents and staff represent a tiny share of the U.S. population but account for as many as 4 in 10 coronavirus deaths, according to some estimates.”

Despite the Trump administration’s claims, experts overwhelmingly say the administration can do more to fix the country’s testing problems.

CNN: “CNN asked more than 20 public health and lab industry sources whether Giroir and the administration were doing all they could to fix the country’s testing problems and there was an overwhelming consensus: No.”

Most Americans agree and want the Trump administration to do more to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including expanding testing.

NPR: “Two-thirds of respondents said they believe the U.S. is handling the pandemic worse than other countries, and most want the federal government to take extensive action to slow the spread of the coronavirus, favoring a top-down approach to reopening schools and businesses.”

NPR: “Other measures that enjoy broad backing include government funding to expand testing for the coronavirus and make it free of charge.”

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DNC launches digital ad campaign highlighting Trump’s failed COVID-19 response in The Tampa Bay Times

5 Aug

Chris King, Florida Faith Leaders to hold press call

Ahead of Vice President Pence’s trip to Clearwater today, the Democratic National Committee is launching a digital ad campaign in The Tampa Bay Times, highlighting Trump’s failed coronavirus response. The Tampa Bay Times reaches voters in Clearwater, where Pence is set to visit today for a “Faith in America” Tour event.

Additionally, today at 11:30 AM EDT, the Florida Democratic Party will host a press call featuring Reverend Dr. Joe Parramore, president and founding pastor of New Journey Ministries; Reverend Gina Durbin of King of Peace in St. Petersburg; Reverend Dr. James Golden of Mt. Zion AME Church, Port of Tampa; Chris King, CEO of Elevation Financial Group and 2018 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Florida to discuss how Trump’s failed, ineffective coronavirus response has hurt Floridians and resulted in nearly 500,000 cases and more than 7,000 deaths statewide. The speakers will also highlight how the Trump administration is failing on issues critical to Floridians of faith, from his mission to undermine the Affordable Care Act during a pandemic to his cruel immigration agenda, to his absolute failure to lead during his pandemic, which has disproportionately hurt Black and Brown communities.

“Nothing Pence says today can change Trump’s total incompetence in responding to the coronavirus — it didn’t need to be this bad, it’s getting worse, and his failure in handling this crisis effectively has cost Floridians their jobs and lives,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez. “Instead of this photo-op, Pence should be listening to the voices of Floridians who are still suffering as COVID spikes, or the Floridians of faith who are repulsed by Trump’s efforts to strip away health care coverage from millions in the midst of a pandemic. In November, Floridians of every faith and political persuasion will hold this administration accountable by voting Trump and Pence out of office.”

These display ads will reach voters throughout The Tampa Bay Times’ website and will run for 24 hours.  Images of the ads are below:

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