Tag Archives: Trump

It Isn’t Just Space Lasers

I’ve made a lot of fun of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s accusation that California’s fires aren’t the result of climate change, but instead were started by Jewish Space Lasers financed by George Soros. Greene and her loony-tunes ilk are perfect representations of an anti-Semitism that continues to attribute super-powers to an invented Jewish “cabal.” (Elders of Zion, anyone?)

If only we Jews were really that powerful…

There’s a robust academic literature attempting to explain some people’s need to pin the world’s woes on an identifiable, deliberate and malevolent group–and as Hitler figured out, it helps if the group chosen to be the bad guys is numerically small and unable to effectively protect itself.

Whatever has made Jews the “chosen” people to blame, it seems the contemporary GOP has become the preferred home for today’s anti-Semites, whose versions are marginally less whack-a-doodle than Greene’s, and for that reason, pose more of a threat.

A recent article in the Intercept recounted the then-Republican rejection of Pat Buchanan’s version of anti-Semitism, then contrasted it with what is occurring today.

Trump resurrected Buchanan’s strain of populist nationalism. He’s always nurtured business relations and personal ties with Jewish people, but his revival of “America First” — both the slogan and the ideas surrounding it — inevitably excited antisemites. In 2016, he tweeted out an image using a Star of David to symbolize Hillary Clinton’s “corruption.” The Trump campaign tweeted an altered version after an outcry but then ran an ad in the campaign’s closing days decrying “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities” coupled with images of Janet Yellen, George Soros, and Lloyd Blankfein — all of whom are financial figures who happen to be Jewish.

Trump attacked his critics as a cabal of “globalists” and fixated on the secret powers exerted by Soros, who has displaced (or in some cases joined) the Rothschilds in the imagined role of secret Jewish financier orchestrating a series of catastrophes for profit. The explosion of militant paranoia that followed Trump’s rise — from the Oath Keepers to QAnon — has appeared both online and in the real world with occasionally deadly consequences in places like Charlottesville and Pittsburgh. Although much of this activity has taken place outside the party system, the energies on the right have crept into the Republican Party.

The article went on to report anti-Semitic statements by high-level Republicans (including a spokesperson for Ron DeSantis) and the close relationship of Doug Mastriano, Pennsylvania’s GOP nominee for governor, with the ultra-right-wing social-media site Gab. (The site promotes Christian Nationalist themes, and its chief executive is an “out and proud” antisemite “who has promoted Mastriano as a fellow enemy of the Jews.”)

Is it fair to criticize the Republican Party for the views of its most distasteful members? The Intercept article is lengthy, with a number of other examples, but I found the closing paragraphs pretty persuasive.

There is a simple test to measure their influence. If antisemites were too marginal to pose any danger, it would be easy enough for the party to cut them off. (If you want to know what it looks like when Republicans decide to really throw somebody out of their party, look at their treatment of Liz Cheney.) Instead, they vacillate. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy declined to comment on Gosar’s attendance at white nationalist Nick Fuentes’s conference. McCarthy has likewise promised to restore Greene’s committee privileges if Republicans regain the majority.

Prosecutors have found that Trump’s January 6 rally attracted a significant number of people who share Hitler quotes, hold membership in neo-Nazi organizations, have a fixation with “white genocide,” and the like, making the party leadership’s desire to sweep the whole thing under the rug all the more dangerous. Whatever misgivings the remaining old-line Republicans may have toward the militant cadres Trump inspired, Republicans fear their political and even terroristic power. They no longer imagine they have the gatekeeping force to exclude the antisemites, less still to steer the party away from the kind of paranoid rhetoric that invites their participation.

The GOP’s overriding goal is to win, and it has decided this means accepting the support of anybody who will provide it. For three-quarters of a century, antisemites were locked out of major American politics or at least had to keep their bigotry quiet. Now the door is open.

I guess a Republican Party that has been deserted by  people who are pro-choice, pro- LGBTQ, pro-public school, pro-gun safety regulation and pro-environment needs to replace those groups with whoever is handy…

However, watching them scrape the bottom of the barrel is making me feel distinctly unsafe.

“God’s Anointed”

Talking Points Memo recently considered the response of the “Christian” Right to the FBI’s execution of a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago.The article described a “smorgasbord of persecution complexes, whataboutism, conspiracy theories, lies, and misinformation about law enforcement and the judicial process.”

The Christian right and its GOP allies are counting on their base consuming a steady diet of these radio shows, podcasts, social media posts, and email blasts, tuning out any coverage that conflicts with their image of Trump as both a virile hero and a victim besieged by radical leftists at the FBI. For them, God anointed Trump, choosing an “unlikely” leader to restore Christian America. It is precisely because Trump is singularly capable of resurrecting the Christian nation, this thinking goes, that the radical leftists of the deep state want to bring him down. 

For those of us who remain residents of the reality-based community, the belief that any God worth worshipping would choose Donald Trump to “resurrect” anything is utterly gobsmacking. Yet the article went on to quote prominent figures of the Christian Right–Tony Perkins, who runs the Family Research Council and Franklin Graham, son of Billy– ranting about the perfidy of the FBI. (Graham invoked the 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge, and the conspiracy theory, evidently pervasive in right-wing circles, that “funding in the Inflation Reduction Act to boost collection of taxes owed by the wealthy was “a step in weaponizing the IRS to act against anyone voicing dissent against the government.)

If the Talking Points Memo report wasn’t sufficiently horrifying, a recent description of Trump supporters in David French’s newsletter certainly was. (French, by the way, is a conservative.)

French begins by differentiating between Republicans who voted for Trump in 2016 and those who currently support him. He says that voters in 2016 were populist (a nicer word than racist…) but that today’s case for Trump is different– and even more harmful for American politics

Here’s the new narrative—and I have no doubt that a number of readers have heard all or much of it from their MAGA friends and family members—goes something like this:

The Trump presidency exposed the true evil of the left. They persecuted Trump more than any other president in history. First, there was the Russia hoax, then the impeachment hoax, then they shut down the economy and schools to destroy Trump; they shut down churches to destroy the Church. They burned cities. They hollowed out our police forces. They were tyrants. They forced us to wear masks that didn’t work and to take an experimental vaccine that has killed tens of thousands of vulnerable Americans.

They hated Trump because Trump was God’s anointed leader to save the nation, and it’s no surprise that the forces of hell came against him.

Even then, they knew they couldn’t beat him. So they changed election rules. Dead people voted. Thousands of “mules” stuffed the ballot boxes, and then they tried to stop Trump from investigating fraud. And if anyone’s to blame for January 6, it’s Nancy Pelosi for leaving the Capitol unguarded. They just let people walk in, and now they’re holding political prisoners in solitary confinement. Second impeachment was a joke, another hoax. But still they can’t keep Trump down. Joe Biden is senile. He can barely walk or talk. Trump is coming back, and they know it, so they’re attacking him again.

The inescapable fact that there are millions of Americans who actually subscribe to this loony-tunes view is nothing short of terrifying. But as French says, once you become aware of this narrative, you see evidence of it is everywhere. He points to wild claims that 44 percent of pregnant women in the Pfizer COVID-vaccine trial miscarried; accusations that a Pennsylvania Senate candidate is “satanic;” and a new book by a right-wing radio host arguing that the COVID lockdowns and other public-health measures were “the worst evil in our history” and the “worst oppression in global history since the Third Reich.”

Meanwhile, well-meaning liberals urge Red and Blue Americans to engage in civil discourse. Really? The likelihood of having a respectful discussion with people who hold such views is somewhere between zero and “are you kidding?”

French says there are tens of millions of Republicans who don’t hold these views  (or at least don’t hold them as intensely), but as he points out, those who do hold them intensely are reliable Republican primary voters.

This changes what it can mean to tack right in the primary and then move to the center for the general. The story above is so dire and so radical that tacking right often precludes moving left. Where do you go after you’ve declared the election stolen or after you’ve declared that your opponents are pure evil?

And where do the rest of us go?

 

P.S.

Yesterday, in addition to the post I planned to share, I accidentally posted what was meant to be today’s blog, about the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago–so today, I’ll just follow up by pointing to some of the rather obvious holes in Trump’s howls about being the focus of a “witch hunt.” (Actually,  witches are female–if this investigation really was just political theater, it would be a “warlock” hunt. But I digress.)

Heather Cox Richardson, among others, has joined those reminding folks that federal search warrants require the sign-off of a judge who–after reviewing the evidence provided by prosecutors–agrees that there is substantial probable cause to believe both that a crime has been committed and that a search will provide evidence of that crime.

She also reminded readers that, although the FBI cannot legally release such search warrants, the individual targeted  for the search must be given a copy, and is free to release it. If this were truly  a “warlock hunt”  and the search warrant was evidence of the absence of probative probable cause supporting the search, you can be sure Trump would have released it .

Legal analysts have pointed out that the law also requires the FBI to give Trump an inventory of what they found and confiscated–and according to several reports, agents removed ten boxes of materials found during the search. Those ten boxes were in addition to the fifteen boxes that Trump formerly returned after repeated demands from federal archivists. Trump could also release that inventory if it bolstered his claim that he is being unfairly targeted.

Trump’s retention of all these materials was a clear violation of federal law–but just as clearly, violating federal records law would not have been considered a sufficient violation to support the issuance of a search warrant for a former President’s residence.

Whatever the suspected crime, it ‘s clearly far more serious.

As usual, there has been an unhinged response from the “law and order” Right. As The Washington Post reported,

For months, right-wing agitators with millions of followers have peddled the idea that a moment was coming soon when violence would become necessary — a patriotic duty — to save the republic.

With the FBI search Monday of Donald Trump’s compound in Florida, that moment is now, according to enraged commentators’ all-caps, exclamation-pointed screeds urging supporters of the former president to take up arms. Within hours of the search at Mar-a-Lago, a chorus of Republican lawmakers, conservative talk-show hosts, anti-government provocateurs and pro-Trump conspiracy theorists began issuing explicit or thinly veiled calls for violence.

“Today is war. That is all you will get on today’s show,” right-wing podcaster Steven Crowder announced Tuesday to his nearly 2 million followers on Twitter, referring to the program that goes to his YouTube audience of 5.6 million.

Robert Hubble’s daily letter addressed that hysteria, and the media’s widespread coverage of Trumpist rage. He reminded readers that–despite the avalanche of threats of violence and even civil war on Twitter and other social media platforms –the people leveling those threats represent a small percentage of the American public.

The Post was less sanguine.

If the goal is to normalize vigilante violence as a political response, studies show that the tactic seems to be working.

A recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that about 1 in 3 Americans say they believe violence against the government can at times be justified, the largest share to feel that way in more than two decades. Other studies similarly have found a growing tolerance of violent ideologies that historically were confined to fringe elements.

Hubble wasn’t recommending that we dismiss the threats. As he conceded,

The reaction on the right is serious because of what it says about the unraveling of the Republican Party. The outlandish and unhinged threats (including calls for secession, civil war, dissolution of the FBI, and gutting of the DOJ) show that the Republican Party is opposed to the rule of law and the institutions of state necessary to maintain peace and security. In their opposition to the federal government, Republicans are deadly serious and dangerous—whether Trump wins in 2024 or not.

I am confident that Garland did not err in choosing to execute a search warrant rather than issuing a subpoena. Indeed, given his overly cautious nature, my belief—rank speculation, I admit—is that Trump removed documents vital to national security or military alliances that could be devastating if they fall into the wrong hands.

Every Republican rallying to Trump’s defense must be secretly thinking, “Oh, God! What did he do? I hope it isn’t really bad!” Trump could dispel some of that uncertainty by releasing the search warrant—an omission that must be ominous for Trump’s defenders.

As I said yesterday, stay tuned……

 

About That FBI “Raid”

The “usual suspects” are pontificating and Democrats are engaging in what appears to be enjoyable speculation. (Trump has been selling state secrets to the Saudis/Russians/Extra-terrestrials…)

We don’t know.

In fact, we wouldn’t know that the FBI had executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago had his Orangeness not begun fundraising off his own announcement of the search. What we do know is that this wouldn’t have occurred absent a really well-documented belief that serious lawbreaking had occurred.

As Josh Marshall recently put it at Talking Points Memo: 

The best assumption is the obvious and initial one: we’re dealing with three key players (Garland, Wray and a federal judge) each of whom would bring a distinct and deep-seated resistance to taking such a step absent evidence of serious criminal conduct and specific circumstances which made the need for a surprise search compelling and necessary. That strongly suggests that there is more afoot here than we yet know.

I will note again what I referenced last night. If you read the reports from the biggest national news organizations what is most striking is how little they seem to know. They believe it’s tied to the 15 box document retention investigation which goes back like a year. But even that seems vague and they don’t seem to know much more. As I said above, this isn’t our first rodeo. Usually after an event like this the most sourced reporters are able to put together a pretty full picture pretty quickly. But that doesn’t seem to be happening. At least not based on the stories I’ve read. That speaks to an extreme secrecy uncommon even in the most delicate and politically-charged investigations.

The Wall Street Journal  notes that authorization for the raid required approval of the “highest echolons” of the Justice Department. 

Before the FBI search, a federal magistrate would have approved a warrant for FBI agents to search the property, indicating investigators may have believed there was additional classified information at the location.

The search also would likely have required signoff from the highest echelons of the Justice Department, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, who was appointed by President Biden, and Christopher Wray, the FBI director appointed by Mr. Trump in 2017, current and former department officials said. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment Tuesday. Mr. Garland has said little publicly about any of the Justice Department’s Trump-related investigations other than noting to reporters that no one is above the law.

One of the most pointed descriptions of the FBI’s execution of its search warrant came from Wired, which reported:

Monday’s search of the former president’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida was surely one of the most significant, sensitive, and politically explosive actions the US Justice Department and FBI have ever taken. It’s one of a tiny handful of times the DOJ has ever investigated a president. And it’s an action that likely indicates the FBI and prosecutors had specific knowledge of both a definable crime and the evidence to back it up.

 The actual search warrant, which would list specific crimes being investigated, has not been released yet. According to Monday night news reports, however, the search focused on questions about a number of boxes of classified documents that Trump took from the White House to his Florida mansion after leaving the presidency.

While it may take months to learn more about the underlying investigation, the fact that the FBI launched such a high-profile search already tells us a great deal about the state of the Justice Department’s case.

 Federal search warrants aren’t fishing expeditions. The FBI’s warrant had to be approved  at the highest level of both the FBI and the Justice Department, and approval would have required substantial evidence of probable cause. The Journal acknowledged that previous FBI scandals have made the bar for probable cause and sign-off by the department’s upper levels even higher.

The Justice Department’s 2016 decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her sloppy handling of classified materials as secretary of state raises the bar for any prosecution stemming from Trump’s handling of classified documents….which means that in order to pursue this Trump investigation, there would have to be more serious (and criminal) concerns than there were in the investigation of Clinton.

 Thus, we’re left with the big question the FBI is ultimately trying to investigate right now: Who would have benefited from Trump taking home these particular documents—and why?

As the Wired article concludes :

Wray, Garland, and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco have made it clear throughout their careers and public statement that they are institutionalists. Far from being aggressive, partisan investigators, all three have shown themselves over the past 18 months to be reserved, careful, and legally and evidentiarily conservative.

The bottom line of Monday’s search is that the FBI and the Justice Department must have been inordinately clear that they had the goods—and someone’s legal trouble is just beginning.

Stay tuned…

 

 

 

Once A Grifter…

Whenever there is discussion on this blog about why thus-and-so happened, someone will inevitably post a comment containing “follow the money.” I wish I could say I disagree with the premise that–no matter what the subject is–money is a substantial part of the explanation, but I can’t. (The problem with dismissing adages of this sort is that, no matter how hackneyed, they tend to reflect reality.)

One of the most illuminating aspects of  the testimony that emerged from the June 13th hearing  of theJanuary 6th Committee was the obscene amount of money Trump raised in the run-up to January 6th–and the blatant dishonesty of the way he raised and distributed it. As the Daily Beast reported,

The committee also alleged that the Trump campaign and its allies used those false claims to exploit donors, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. In perhaps the most egregious instance, multiple campaign officials told the committee that the “official election defense fund” mentioned in fundraising emails didn’t even exist. It was just a marketing ploy to extract money, which was then divvied up among a number of accounts.

And while Trump and GOP allies did end up igniting millions of dollars on the legal altar, most of the donations went elsewhere. A slide put together by congressional investigators pointed out that $5 million went to Event Strategies, which helped set up the rally at The Ellipse near the White House where Trump fired up an angry crowd that later attacked the Capitol building. They also noted that last year, $1 million went to the nonprofit that hired his chief of staff Mark Meadows, with another $1 million going to the America First Policy Institute, which backed the social media lawsuit Trump lost in April. Another $204,857 was funneled to the Trump Hotel Collection.

“The Big Lie was also a big rip off,” Lofgren said.

Co-chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) said the panel would explore that element in a future hearing.

I can hardly wait…

As Representative Lofgren pointed out, people making these small donations are entitled to know where their money is actually going. According to the findings of the investigation, however, funds were not only diverted from their purported purpose, it wasn’t inadvertence; that was pretty clearly the intent from the start.

As the Independent reported,

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign raised $250 million from supporters by telling them the money would be used to fight voter fraud, but the campaign knew those claims of fraud were bogus and instead diverted the money to his own political organisation, the House committee investigating the January 6 attacked claimed on Monday.

Mr Trump’s campaign sent millions of fundraising emails to supporters encouraging them to donate to help fight voter fraud between election day and January 6, the committee said. Many of those emails asked supporters to donate to an “election defense fund” for legal cases related to the election.

 However, an investigator for the committee said that fund did not exist, and most of that money went Mr Trump’s ‘Save America’ political action committee, not to election-related litigation.

“The evidence highlights how the Trump campaign pushed false election claims to fundraise, telling supporters it would be used to fight voter fraud that did not exist,” said Amanda Wick, senior investigative counsel for the House committee.

“The Trump campaign knew these claims of voter fraud were false yet they continued to barrage small-dollar donors with emails encouraging them to donate to something called the ‘Official Election Defense fund.’ The select committee discovered no such fund existed,” she added.

Everything this man ever touched was a grift–a con job. Trump steaks, vodka, University…the list goes on. Most sentient Americans concluded long ago that–in addition to his repellent personal characteristics–Trump was a petty crook, not a businessman.

The question we confront isn’t whether Trump himself was guilty of lies big and small, or whether he constantly engaged in unethical and illegal activities. We know the answer to that. The question–to which I have absolutely no answer–is why so many Americans see him as somehow admirable, as someone deserving of their loyalty and money.

The only answer that makes any sense is that these people–these members of the cult–live in an alternate reality, an information bubble in which Fox is actually a news organization, the My Pillow nutcase has access to classified information, Sidney Powell and Rudy Guliani are competent lawyers, and every “legacy” news source is part of a”deep state” conspiracy financed by George Soros that is lying to them.

There’s a diagnosis for people who believe those things…..