The Note: Trump’s Tulsa rally falls on defining weekend for campaign

It’s either a giant party or an even bigger petri dish.

June 19, 2020, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

It's either a giant party or an even bigger petri dish. It's a celebration of a nation coming back, or it's a statement on how far parts of the nation are falling behind.

Actually, President Donald Trump's rally Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, could be all of those things. It's also an expensive, provocative and possibly explosive test that Trump has set for himself, as he seeks a campaign restart at a tense moment.

With Juneteenth on Friday -- the day before the rally, after Trump moved the initial date -- the stage is set for a defining few days for the presidential race and the country. Celebrations figure to melt into protests in Tulsa and far beyond, with COVID-19 in the air -- potentially all too literally.

Tune in for the primetime special, "Juneteenth: A Celebration of Overcoming," Fright at 8 p.m. ET on ABC and Nat Geo. Led by a team including Linsey Davis, Byron Pitts and Whoopi Goldberg, the one-hour special will feature reporting from Tulsa, Oklahoma; Galveston, Texas; and cities across the country.

President Donald Trump speaks at a "Keep America Great" campaign rally at the Huntington Center on Jan. 9, 2020, in Toledo, Ohio.
Brittany Greeson/Getty Images, FILE

Coronavirus is not "fading away" or "dying out," in Oklahoma or other places around the country, despite what Trump has said this week. Police reform efforts are far from settled either, as the impact of a new brand of movement politics is just starting to be felt.

Amid all that, Trump is politically cornered at the moment. His poll numbers have dropped, in some cases substantially.

His former national security adviser, John Bolton, is just starting to have his say. And after decisions of the last few days, Trump's Supreme Court talking points need some editing -- in part due to the messiness of his governing style.

Trump has relied on gut instincts to guide his response to tough moments, and he can be at his most effective when the news cycle is the loudest. A rally represents a comfort zone for a president who badly wants the nation heading back toward normal.

The next few days, though, involve forces Trump can't hope to control. The storylines of an extraordinary moment are connecting in unpredictable ways.

ABC News chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz's exclusive interview with former national security adviser John Bolton about his memoir, "The Room Where It Happened," describing his experience working in President Trump's administration, airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

Once again, Chief Justice John Roberts kept the court in line with public opinion Thursday.

In joining the court's four liberals justices and rejecting the administration's rationale for ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Roberts offered a temporary salve for a nation already on edge and relief to the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants whose lives hung in the balance -- not to mention their friends, families, colleagues, employers and employees.

In this moment, where so many Americans are hurting and past a breaking point, especially young Americans of color, it was hard to imagine the pain of potentially ripping more communities apart.

DACA recipients and their supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 18, 2020, in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump though fumed Thursday and seemed to feel personally slighted. He called the decision "political" and mused about appointing new justices, without acknowledging that he has appointed two already and loves to use their appointments as a political applause line.

The fact is, in poll after poll, an overwhelming majority of Americans have said they thought DACA recipients should be afforded protections.

The court's decision did not keep the work and residency program in place indefinitely. Roberts made clear that a president would be within his or her rights to end the program, which President Barack Obama started, if he or she did so carefully and legally. The court majority found that the Trump administration's rationale was "arbitrary and capricious" and in violation of federal law.

Over the last few years, Dreamers and their families have, at times, blamed both political parties for using them as bargaining chips.

Obama wrote Thursday that he was happy for the DACA families and "all of us," before urging people to elect his former vice president to continue their work.

"We may look different and come from everywhere, but what makes us American are our shared ideals," he said.

While Joe Biden promised he "won't stop until every Dreamer feels safe in this country," passing a bill through Congress will likely still be necessary to provide a more permanent solution.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

After several months of limited opportunities for outreach amid the ongoing pandemic, the campaign trail seems to be shifting back into somewhat familiar territory Friday as Democrats gear up to run offense in Tulsa ahead of Trump's Saturday rally.

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del., on March 12, 2020, left, and President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington on April 5, 2020.

The move coincides with the Juneteenth holiday, and both the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign, are seeking to utilize a variety of tactics to counter Trump's message while highlighting his long record of broken promises, particularly to African American voters. Starting Friday morning, the DNC is taking out a week-long posting for a full-page ad in the The Oklahoma Eagle, a historic black paper in Tulsa. Later, Biden is slated to join JusticeCon, a virtual conference that aims to empower attendees for social change.

But not all of this weekend's counterprogramming events are virtual. On Saturday, Tulsans plan to gather for a Juneteenth Block Party both on the ground and online to "reclaim the airwaves" at the same time as the president's rally. A slew of famous faces, including Russell Westbrook, Alfre Woodard and Sophia Bush, are expected to participate, as well as political leaders like Sen. Kamala Harris and senior Biden adviser Karine Jean-Pierre.

With concerns over social distancing practices mounting, the weekend of events sets up the potential for a split screen of both politics and health hazards that both sides of the aisle are sure to keep replaying for weeks to come.


As the country grapples with a widespread reckoning over the prevalence of racism, majorities of Americans are resistant to renaming U.S. military bases that carry the names of Confederate leaders, and are voicing particular opposition to providing descendants of slaves with reparations, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday.


There's a lot of confusion around the coronavirus. Two things experts appear to agree on: We're still in the first wave of the virus, and it is unlikely to mutate into a deadlier version. Read this story and more by checking out Bringing America Back, an ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in economic recovery and medical preparedness amid the coronavirus pandemic.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Friday morning's episode features DACA recipient Diana Platas and ABC News Senior National correspondent Terry Moran as we break down the implications of the Supreme Court's DACA ruling. Then, ABC News Chief Medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton explains what is most concerning about the recent rise in COVID-19 cases. And, Brandeis University Professor Leah Wright Riguer makes the case for Juneteenth as a national holiday.


  • Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a JusticeCon livestream event Friday at 9 a.m. ET
  • Jill Biden participates in a virtual roundtable discussion with Latina workers to discuss the economic challenges families have faced during the pandemic on Friday at 6 p.m.ET
  • President Donald Trump holds a Make America Great Again Rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET
  • Sunday on ABC's "This Week": ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl goes one-on-one exclusively with Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. Plus, the Powerhouse Roundtable discusses all the week's politics with former New Jersey governor and ABC News contributor Chris Christie, former Chicago mayor and ABC News contributor Rahm Emanuel, associate professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and ABC News contributor Leah Wright Rigueur, and ABC News senior White House correspondent Cecilia Vega.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back Monday for the latest.

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