83 thoughts on “Journal During the Trump Regime (8)

  1. Is it time to take QAnon more seriously?

    I’m not sure if you guys have read about this conspiracy theory. I listened to a Reply All podcast on it, and maybe some other sources. It was totally crazy, and I basically pushed it to the side–partly because I didn’t think it would be influential and partly because it was so nutty, I didn’t really want to follow stories about it.

    After reading this twitter thread from Kevin Roose, the NYT technology columnist, about the top ten link posts on Facebook, I’m wondering if I should start paying more attention:

    Sometimes, these lists speak for themselves. But I want to dig a little deeper into today’s list, because I think it illustrates something that isn’t immediately obvious.

    1. Donald J. Trump
    2. Franklin Graham
    3. Ben Shapiro
    4. Ivanka Trump
    5. Fox News
    6. Ben Shapiro
    7. The Other 98%
    8. Ben Shapiro
    9. Ben Shapiro
    10. Fox News

    The #1, #4, and #10 posts on this list — representing more than 700,000 combined interactions — all link to versions of the same news story: a report about a $35 million grant from a DOJ program to organizations that house survivors of human trafficking.
    Now, normally, you’d be surprised that a $35 million grant by an obscure federal agency would be the highest-performing story on Facebook.

    But people who follow this stuff know that stories about human trafficking, *especially* stories involving Trump, are a QAnon bat signal.
    And sure enough, if you check which pages shared these stories, you’ll see plenty of QAnon pages like “Follow the White Rabbit” and “The Great Awakening.”

    They’re using the story as more evidence that Trump is breaking up a child-trafficking cabal run by Democrats.
    This is why looking at top-performing links (which Facebook has recently suggested is more accurate than looking at the posts that contain those links) can be misleading. After all, this is an AP story! What’s the matter with the AP?

    But the way it’s being used is dangerous.
    The engagement numbers on these stories are also way, way higher than you’d assume from looking at public post performance, which means they are likely traveling through private QAnon groups and person-to-person shares. (Facebook’s public tools don’t track that kind of data.)
    This is why it’s critical for social platforms to provide data not just about which posts by influential accounts are performing well, but about which posts are spreading virally user-to-user. This is what happened with Plandemic, and it happens regularly with QAnon content.
    This is also why “banning QAnon” isn’t really possible. It’s in the bloodstream. Right-wing influencers know they’ll get huge engagement on posts about child trafficking, etc., and they can post them without fear of being censored. (Because, after all, it’s just a news story.)
    I don’t know what we do about this, as a society and a news business. Should the AP add a line to its story saying “PS: this is not evidence of a Satan-worshipping cabal?” Should Facebook limit this story’s reach, because of how it’s being framed?
    I honestly don’t know. But the reason I started tracking this stuff is because there’s often more than meets the eye. And I hope Facebook and other social networks examine this problem holistically, and don’t think pulling down a few hundred pages will solve it.

    1. Yeah, I have at least one friend who’s a serious Pizzagater, so I’ve been aware for some time. Since the pizzeria in question is in D.C. (or the area), Tony Kornheiser talked about it on his podcast right after the incident.

      Your comment needs editing but I’m in the middle of something so I’ll look at it later.

    2. Yeah, I have at least one friend who’s a serious Pizzagater,…

      It would depress me if this person is fairly well-educated and otherwise normal.

      1. She is. She’s a therapist. Before Pizzagate blew up into QAnon, I asked her if we could get together one day so she could explain to me why she’s so convinced of its legitimacy. I said I was severely skeptical, which she acknowledged as reasonable. She moved away before we could get together, but I think she’s moved back. So I don’t know.

    3. A therapist?! Like a counselor/psychologist? That’s dispiriting to hear.

      It’s anecdotes like this that make me cautious and way about my own susceptibility to believing irrational ideas or listening to unreliable sources. For me, it’s not always easy to know which ideas are reasonable or which people are trustworthy. Now, the Qanon is obviously crazy to me. It’s about one or two notches away from the government is run by lizard men posing as humans.

    4. Marjorie Taylor Greene, QAnon supporter who made racist videos, wins GOP nomination for northwest Georgia US House seat

      9/4/2020

    5. Actually, I wonder if this is more about Trump’s narcissism more than his conspiracy thinking. It doesn’t matter who the person is or what they believe–if they say nice things about Trump, they’ll be OK to Trump.

    6. The event is also expected to draw Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top Trump campaign fundraiser; GOP chair Ronna McDaniel; Republican National Committee finance chair Todd Ricketts; and RNC co-chair Tommy Hicks Jr.

      9/12/2020

      This is good news.

      Also, this: “Pence has said it’s a conspiracy theory and last month told CBS, “I don’t know anything about QAnon, and I dismiss it out of hand.”

      It’s really important prominent Republicans like Pence says this. I hope he and others keep saying this loud and clear.

  2. Yep, and this is what scares me–he’ll do almost anything to win the election–e.g., undermine faith in mail-in ballots and the election itself; get foreign assistance to either win or cast doubt on results of the elections; use lawsuits to question results; cast doubts if results not in by election night; etc. The question is, what won’t he do to try to stay in power.

  3. Bad faith…on an Orwellian level

    Obamacare did this. I believe Trump and the Republicans have been trying to repeal Obamacare. And the National Press Secretary tweets this.

    It would be sad if a lot of Trump supporters believe this. I hope the vast majority of Americans know this is false and extreme bad faith.

  4. Trump seems to be crippling the U.S. Postal Service as voter suppression tactic

    Postal Service overhauls leadership as Democrats press for investigation of mail delays from WaPo

    Postmaster General Louis DeJoy unveiled a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s mail service, displacing the two top executives overseeing day-to-day operations, according to a reorganization memo released Friday. The shake-up came as congressional Democrats called for an investigation of DeJoy and the cost-cutting measures that have slowed mail delivery and ensnared ballots in recent primary elections.

    I believe Trump installed Dejoy relatively recently (sometime this year?).

    Congressional sent a letter to the Postal Service’s Inspector General to

    …review the finances of DeJoy and his wife, Aldona Wos, the nominee for ambassador to Canada. The couple’s holdings include between $30.1 million and $75.3 million in assets in USPS competitors or contractors, according to a financial disclosure Wos filed with the Office of Government Ethics when she was nominated. Postal Service mail processing contractor XPO Logistics — which acquired DeJoy’s company New Breed Logistics in 2014 — represents the vast majority of those holdings. Their combined stake in competitors UPS and trucking company J.B. Hunt is roughly $265,000.”

    Also, this about DeJoy:

    … he’s donated more than $2 million to the Trump campaign or Republican causes since 2016, and chaired the finance committee for the 2020 GOP convention…

    1. Trump aides exploring executive actions to curb voting by mail from Politico

      This is not good.

      In the weeks since (spring 2020), Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee have taken to the courts dozens of times as part of a $20 million effort to challenge voting rules, including filing their own lawsuits in several battleground states, including Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Nevada. And around the time Trump started musing about delaying the election last week, aides and outside advisers began scrambling to ponder possible executive actions he could take to curb mail-in voting — everything from directing the postal service to not deliver certain ballots to stopping local officials from counting them after Election Day.

      (emphasis added)

      and later,

      Since then, Trump has mused to aides about what executive orders, if any, he could sign to curb voting by mail.

      “I have the right to do it,” Trump told reporters Monday. “We haven’t gotten there yet. We’ll see what happens.”

      Instead of curbing mail-in ballots, which is even more important during a pandemic, he could work to find ways to ensure it is secure and not a problem on Election Day–such as, providing more funding. He could support a commission, headed by Obama and Bush, to ensure the integrity of the election. He’s not doing any of this. This is just about winning, through almost any means.

    2. I want to watch the entire segment, but for now here’s a video clip of the statement below:

    3. The Post Office Is Deactivating Mail Sorting Machines Ahead of the Election by Vice Motherboard (quoted in the WaPo op-ed below).

      This is a nuanced article. It’s not entirely clear why the machines are being moved–there may be some legitimate reasons, although the article brings up legitimate concerns even if the reasons are legitimate–and the what the effects will be on Election Day. Still, given Trump’s rhetoric and other actions by the new Postmaster General, it’s hard to not be suspicious.

      While the consequences of this new policy are mostly unclear for now, it neatly fits with the sudden, opaque, and drastic changes made by DeJoy, a longtime Republican fundraiser and Trump donor, in the less than two months he’s been postmaster general. Like his other changes, including the curtailing of overtime resulting in the widespread mail delays and sudden reorganization of the entire USPS, it is possible to see some semblance of corporate logic while second-guessing the decision to make drastic changes on the eve of the presidential election in which the USPS will play a critical role.

      Election mail is often sorted by hand, but it can vary by location. But here’s a potential solution:

      That being said, this would only be a problem for voters who waited until the last minute to send back their ballots. If mail-in ballots are sent and returned over a period of weeks instead of days, it is unlikely, the postal workers said, to stress the machines even if some are taken away.

      “We would have the capacity to run the volume of ballots that are expected if we have it in a longer period of time,” said Paul McKenna, president of Milwaukee Area Local 3 of the American Postal Workers Union. He likened it to flattening the curve of coronavirus. Now, he said, Americans have to flatten a different curve.

      We need a national campaign to urge Americans to vote early–and to even hand-carry their ballots to drop boxes!

      The Media must keep up the red-alert coverage of Trump’s attacks on postal service WaPo op-ed from Margaret Sullivan


      There is another article by Vice Motherboard about package delays by the USPS that paints a complicated and nuanced picture of the problem–and I really appreciate that. Here’s an excerpt:

      But the reality is more complicated. In interviews with seven postal workers from around the country, all of whom requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation for speaking to the press, Motherboard heard many of the same concerns LaBelle expressed: that DeJoy may try to intentionally disrupt USPS services in order to sabotage the mail-in ballot system ahead of the November elections, that he is hellbent on privatizing the USPS, and that he is in cahoots with Trump. But at the same time, they dismissed the possibility he is responsible for current or past package delays. When asked how they knew this, the postal workers told Motherboard that they have been having delivery issues on and off for months, long before DeJoy took over. The far simpler explanation, they said, is there are just too many packages right now for them to handle.

      That being said, postal workers are leery of DeJoy’s actions partly because, given the USPS’s current state and past actions by Congress, it’s hard to tell the difference between cost-cutting in the name of efficiency and intentionally sabotaging the USPS.

      (emphasis added)

  5. Biden picks Kamala Harris for his VP

    I felt happy and relieved when I heard this. First, I was worried Biden would pick someone who gave me pause with regard to being able to be the POTUS. I feel pretty confident that Harris is qualified and competent. Next, I really like the fact that she is woman, black, and Indian. I think that’s super cool. Personally, I’m happy with the pick.

    The one concern I have involves the way Trump with use Harris’s race (and maybe sex) to scare his supporters–increasing their resentment, fear, and anger at growing demographic and cultural changes.

    Here’s a tweet today by Trump that’s an example of the type of demagoguery I’m thinking of:

    I believe that besides Harris, Senator Booker is the only other black Senator. As far as I know Booker be in a charge of a low-income housing program–I’m not sure how he could. So what’s the message? He’s trying to scare white women that blacks will be moving into their neighborhoods–and maybe he assumes a lot of them would be afraid.

    1. Tim Scott is still in the Senate, as the Republicans often remind us. The tweet mentions Booker probably not simply because he’s black, but because he’s been vocal about his family being the only black family in a suburban neighborhood when he was growing up — I think he told Chuck Todd that pressure from neighbors caused his parents to move away, in fact, but I might have that wrong.

      Which is not to say this tweet isn’t bald-faced race-baiting and fear-mongering. It’s utterly shameless.

      However, picking a white candidate in order not to spook the racists is a bad idea. I’m all for winning this election in whatever strategic, legitimate ways are available, but not acquiescing to fear. It’s a battle for reasonable people, and reasonable people don’t fear a black woman in the White House. Reasonable people voted for a black president and got him elected twice.

      As you know, I hoped the Democrats would choose Harris as their nominee for president, so of course this choice pleases me.

    2. I think he told Chuck Todd that pressure from neighbors caused his parents to move away, in fact, but I might have that wrong.

      I don’t know if this specific detail is true, but I’ve definitely heard of the struggles his family had with moving into a new home.

      It’s a battle for reasonable people,…

      I don’t think that’s true. To me, a big part of winning (assuming the election operates within the boundaries of liberal-democratic norms) involves turnout–how many on each side actually go out and vote. My sense is fear, resentment and anger are the primary motivators for Trump voters. Quell these emotions and their motivation to go out and vote, especially for Trump, will decrease dramatically–and I think Biden wins rather easily. On the other hand, if these emotions are running high, I would expect high turnout for Trump supporters. Trump’s main objective, above controlling the pandemic and getting the economy going, is to stoke fears and increase polarization.

      If this is correct, then Biden and the Democrats should decrease polarization–bring the country together, which is what a good leader would do, anyway.

      This doesn’t mean that Biden should have chosen a white candidate. But the fact that he didn’t–and that he chose a female–poses some legitimate challenges in my view.

      1. I know you’re not suggesting people should be encouraged not to vote, but not wanting to energize the opposition to get to the polls is kind of close to the same thing. Which I know you’re also not saying. Picking a running mate who might energize the opposition to show up to vote may be a negative, but the campaign’s focus should be on getting out its own vote. Which this candidate most likely does.

        I would have been more worried about picking a VP candidate who would turn off moderate Republicans or moderate Democrats. Which Biden did not do, although he certainly could have.

    3. …the campaign’s focus should be on getting out its own vote.

      Again, I disagree. In my view, the campaign should think about energizing their voters, without energizing the opponents. This isn’t about discouraging the other side from voting–this is about not inflaming fear, anger, and resentment–the very things that will motivate them to vote. Put aside voting–the Democrats shouldn’t be doing things to increase hostilities with Trump supporters; they should be doing the opposite. It’s not just the practical thing to do, but it’s the right thing.

      As an example, I think progressives should stop putting down Trump voters–especially for their religion, intelligence, and way of life. When they do this, they help Trump–but it’s also just uncool. The latter should be enough of a reason to stop doing it.

      I would have been more worried about picking a VP candidate who would turn off moderate Republicans or moderate Democrats. Which Biden did not do, although he certainly could have.

      I was worried about that, too. I would have liked Elizabeth Warren as a VP candidate, but she could alienate moderates and I’m pretty sure Trump campaign would have really push socialist narrative.

  6. When I saw the following headline, I shouted in exasperation: Trump And His Campaign Amplify ‘Birther’ Conspiracy Against Kamala Harris (from NPR)

    To do the same baseless, repugnant thing again–it’s so outrageous. There’s so many red lines Trump has crossed, but a part of me, for just a split second, felt like this was one the Republicans would not stand for. Yeah, Trump has done a lot of other things that may be worse than this–not push back against the Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers, for one–but this is so brazen. The Republicans and Fox News are saying its OK if he pulls the same fabricated, race-baiting maneuver.

    Here’s a video clip:

    This response below is how congressional Republicans should be responding:

    And I would settle for a handful (3-4 prominent members). They can even take out “racist,” “lie” and “disgusting.” Just forcefully shoot down what Trump is suggesting.

  7. At Homeland Security, I saw firsthand how dangerous Trump is for America op-ed in WaPo by a guy who “served at the Department of Homeland Security from 2017 to 2019, including as chief of staff.”

    There are lots of damning information in this. Here are a few:

    The president has tried to turn DHS, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, into a tool used for his political benefit. He insisted on a near-total focus on issues that he said were central to his reelection — in particular building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. Though he was often talked out of bad ideas at the last moment, the president would make obviously partisan requests of DHS, including when he told us to close the California-Mexico border during a March 28, 2019, Oval Office meeting — it would be better for him politically, he said, than closing long stretches of the Texas or Arizona border — or to “dump” illegal immigrants in Democratic-leaning sanctuary cities and states to overload their authorities, as he insisted on several times.

    (emphasis added)

    The White House process was chaotic:

    Top DHS officials were regularly diverted from dealing with genuine security threats by the chore of responding to these inappropriate and often absurd executive requests, at all hours of the day and night. One morning it might be a demand to shut off congressionally appropriated funds to a foreign ally that had angered him, and that evening it might be a request to sharpen the spikes atop the border wall so they’d be more damaging to human flesh (“How much would that cost us?”). Meanwhile, Trump showed vanishingly little interest in subjects of vital national security interest, including cybersecurity, domestic terrorism and malicious foreign interference in U.S. affairs.

    (emphasis added)

    Here is the person that wrote the op-ed in a video:

    1. After writing the op-ed above, Miles Taylor, a Republican and former chief of staff in the Department of Homeland Security, speaks on CNN and MSNBC. I hope every American can listen to this. It’s one guy, but he rather high in the DHS. More importantly he mentions that his view is shared by many, including those close to Trump–and they don’t want him to have a second term. He also says more people will be speaking out. I hope it’s those that are close to Trump. The country needs to hear this.

      Even if you won’t vote for Trump, I think hearing some of the specific anecdotes that Taylor tells is worth it. For example, the comments Trump made with regard to the immigrant parent and child separation and the people of Puerto Rico–they’re so over-the-top wrong and immoral. Listen for yourself.

      8/21/2020

      More from Miles Taylor today, former chief of staff at DHS. I find this what he says very compelling, and at this point, he seems credible. He talks about Qanon (outright debunking it–and notion of a “deep state”), Trump’s desire to separate parents and children at the border as a deterrent; Trump recommending picking up and dummping illegal immigrants to Democratic cities, told it was illegal, but still recommended pursuing it; and how Lou Dobbs was a “shadow chief of staff” and more.

      And yesterday, another interview he gave with CNN:

      Part of the same show, I think:

      (This comment makes me think of stories that people (e.g., Rod Rosenstein) in the administration were mulling over invoking the 25h amendment.)

      PBS interview, August 18, 2020:

    2. Miles Taylor said others would be speaking out. Two from Homeland Security–John Mitnick, Fmr General Counsel, Dept Homeland Security, and Elizabeth Neumann, Fmr Asst Secretary of Homeland Security, recently signed a letter, with about 75 other prominent Republicans with National Security backgrounds, claiming Trump is unfit and endorsing Biden for president>

      A Statement by Former Republican National Security Officials

      We are former national security officials who served during the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and/or Donald Trump, or as Republican Members of Congress. We are profoundly concerned about the course of our nation under the leadership of Donald Trump. Through his actions and his rhetoric, Trump has demonstrated that he lacks the character and competence to lead this nation and has engaged in corrupt behavior that renders him unfit to serve as President.

      (emphasis added)

      They go on to list reasons Trump has failed the country.
      Here are some names I recognized: Sen. Chuck Hagel (also former Sec. of Defense), General Michael Hayden, John Negroponte, Eliot Cohen, Kori Schake, Victor Cha, Senator John Warner, Rep. Jim Leach, Paul Paul Rosenzweig.

      I’ll also put this recent op-ed here as well:

      Trump is actively working to undermine the Postal Service — and every major U.S. institution from Retired Admiral William McRaven, former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014.

      Today, as we struggle with social upheaval, soaring debt, record unemployment, a runaway pandemic, and rising threats from China and Russia, President Trump is actively working to undermine every major institution in this country. He has planted the seeds of doubt in the minds of many Americans that our institutions aren’t functioning properly. And, if the president doesn’t trust the intelligence community, law enforcement, the press, the military, the Supreme Court, the medical professionals, election officials and the postal workers, then why should we? And if Americans stop believing in the system of institutions, then what is left but chaos and who can bring order out of chaos: only Trump. It is the theme of every autocrat who ever seized power or tried to hold onto it. (emphasis added)

    3. Former Trump aide says president offered pardons to officials to break laws

      From MIles Taylor, former DHS chief of staff WaPo,

      “It was April of 2019. We were down at the border, and the president said to the senior leadership of the Homeland Security Department behind the scenes we should not let anyone else into the United States,” Miles Taylor, the former chief of staff at DHS, said. “Even though he’d been told on repeated occasions that the way he wanted to do it was illegal, his response was to say, do it. If you get in trouble, I’ll pardon you.”

      One of many impeachable offenses if true. If its not true, Taylor should be excoriated. A normal functioning Congress would have investigated this, held hearings, and, by itself, might bring down a presidency. This story was reported in 2019, too.

      Here’s one of the original stories reported in WaPo on August 27, 2019.

    4. Another person from DHS speaks out:

      8/28/2020

      1. “Of course we’re in crazy town. But everybody knows it.”

        Miles Taylor spoke on CNN again, and he makes this really important point (starting at 1:00 minute mark), one that I’ve heard others make–namely, everyone in the White House knows Trump is deeply unfit. This is point worth making because Trump and his minions will complain about “fake news” and the “deep state”–but people all around him, in his own administration, know this is “crazy town.”

        I hope more of them come out–especially the Secretaries.

      2. With regard to the “crazy town” comment above, Trump and his followers want discredit these insiders like Miles Taylor. I would respond to people by pointing to Trump’s own words and behavior. Case in point:

        I haven’t heard the entire interview, so I don’t know if there is important missing context, but if I knew someone who spoke to me like this, in earnest, I would wonder question their rationality.

        1. Does it matter to people if Trump is making up the story about a “plane full of people in black uniforms?” It does to me–especially if this is part of a repeated pattern. In this case, it’s part of fearmongering.

          Watch John Berman of CNN question WH spokesperson Tim Murtagh to give details about Trump’s comment about “people in black uniforms” on planes.

    5. Third person from DHS speaking out, Olivia Troye, top aide to Vice-President Mike Pence’s in the Coronovirus Task Force:

      Quick comments:

      1. Rant: Troye says the Trump didn’t want to hear about the pandemic because it he was worried how it would affect his election. A) He’s responsible for protecting the country against a pandemic; B) If he did a good job of handling the pandemic, that would have greatly helped his re-election.

      2. One comment that is noteworthy: Troye mentioned a comment that really stood out for her–namely, Trump suggesting the pandemic because he wouldn’t have to shake the hands of the disgusting people–his supporters.

      3. Troye and the others that have spoke out–they are American heroes to me, and I am grateful for them.

      Edit

      “It Was All About the Election”: The Ex-White House Aide Olivia Troye on Trump’s Narcissistic Mishandling of COVID-19

      In the end, this is what struck me most during my conversation with Troye: she is young, only forty-three years old, with a long career ahead of her, and she was willing to put it all on the line publicly, whereas people like Mattis and Kelly were not.

      I asked her if she was bothered by the failure of senior officials who share her views to speak out as she had done. Troye was generous. “I know that I am not alone—and how hard it is,” she said. But, she added—and this is a point that cannot be repeated enough between now and November 3rd—this is not a time for silence. “I hope that this will encourage other voices who were obviously much more senior than I was to tell the truth about the situation here we’re in,” she said. “And how dangerous this is.”

  8. I’m refreshed by hearing a real liberal democratic leader–a real President of the United States. I found President Obama’s words inspiring. I hope you listen to them, if you haven’t already.

  9. Republican Governors (and other Republican politicians) Not Voting for Trump

    Anyone known of other Republican governors and politicians not voting for Trump? And also any that publicly stated they will be voting for Biden.

    Edit

    John McCollister, state Senator from Nebraska,

    …said Friday he’s joining a number of fellow Republicans in deciding to formally endorse Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in his bid to unseat Republican President Donald Trump.

    Biden would be “a real president,” McCollister said, “not the disaster” that occupies the White House today.

    “Principled Republicans are jumping ship,” the two-term state senator said, and he’s disappointed that “Republican officeholders in Nebraska have not spoken up against this president and his dreadful policies.”

    1. I was pleased to see Christine Tood Whitman, whom I have always liked, say she’s supporting the Democratic ticket. She did four years ago as well. And Colin Powell of course, but I doubt that will help. Republicans have always been skeptical of his Republican cred.

    2. To me, the value of Republicans publicly stating they won’t vote for Trump and/or will vote for Biden doesn’t lie just in the impact it will have on Republican voters, but the moderate voters who are not really into politics and don’t pay close attention to it.

      For many of these people, my sense is that they put a lot of weight on agreement between Democrats and Republicans. That is, claim will seem truer, more accurate or important if Democrats and Republicans say it is. Of course, many Republicans are voting for Trump. Still, if prominent Republicans, especially those that served in the administration, say they’re not voting for Trump–especially because he’s unfit and poses a danger to the country–I think this can impact the moderate voters I’m thinking about.

    3. Jeff Flake joins over two-dozen former GOP members of Congress to launch ‘Republicans for Biden from Fox News

      Some others on the list had already backed the former vice president, including former Republican Sens. Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire (who is now an independent) and John Warner of Virginia. They’re joined by a number of former Republican House members:

      Former Reps. Steve Bartlett of Texas, Bill Clinger of Pennsylvania, Tom Coleman of Missouri, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Charles Djou of Hawaii, Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma, Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland, Jim Greenwood of Pennsylvania, Bob Inglis of South Carolina, Jim Kolbe of Arizona, Steve Kuykendall of California, Ray LaHood of Illinois (who served as Transportation secretary in the Obama administration), Jim Leach of Iowa, Connie Morella of Maryland, Mike Parker of Mississippi, Jack Quinn of New York, Claudine Schneider of Rhode Island, Chris Shays of Connecticut, Peter Smith of Vermont, Alan Steelman of Texas, Bill Whitehurst of Virginia, Dick Zimmer of New Jersey, and Jim Walsh of New York.

      Good for Mr. Djou.

  10. Republican Politicians Critical of Trump

    I’m going to use this as a repository for criticisms from Republican Congress persons. The first is clip of several Republicans, including Kellyanne Conway:

    I think most of this occurred during the 2016 Republican primary. Now, primary candidates will say harsh things about their opponent. However, in this case, I believe what these candidates said not only reflected their genuine assessment of Trump, but Trump’s almost four years has vindicated that assessment. What’s happening now is that these Republicans going against what they know to be true to keep Trump in power and protect their power.

  11. Some say this was the best speech of the DNC last night. I thought Biden’s speech was solid, especially the ending, but I won’t argue. There are two clips below. I thought both were cool–I got emotional:

    Here’s when Biden met Brayden:

    1. It was a good speech but the pundits were overly gushy about it. These conventions have a way of bringing that out of the devotees; I get it. If it were my convention I might get the same way. I just want stupid election day to get here already. This is going to be a long 80+ days.

    2. I just want stupid election day to get here already.

      I actually feel closer to the opposite, or at least more ambivalent. Specifically, I’m anticipating chaos on and after Election Day. I’m nervous about what Trump will do. There’s some dread that I feel the upcoming election.

  12. Evidence that Trump doesn’t value key democratic institutions and processes

    President went after the FDA today, suggesting the “deep state” was involved:

    Instead of describing the reason this is so bad, I want to consider the way a responsible POTUS facing would behave, in similar situation. First, I would assume two things about such a POTUS: 1) any claims they made would be fact-based–the more extraordinary the claim, the more substantive and numerous the evidence the POTUS would provide; 2) s/he would protect and work to strengthen the faith of key democratic institutions, because s/he would understand the importance of faith in and the role of these institutions in our republic.

    Now, suppose the public’s faith was not warranted–that there was group of federal workers actively undermining the President’s legal, Constitutional authority–approaching something close to a coup. If this were the case, I could see several ways a responsible POTUS would respond:

    1. If the guilty party was only a few individuals, the POTUS could possibly remove them, behind the scenes, not allowing the public to know, for fear of undermining confidence in those institutions. (And if it were only a few, then the public’s faith likely shouldn’t be undermined.)

    2. Use the Inspector General to start an investigation or present evidence to Congress (behind the scenes) to start a bi-partisan commission to investigate this. This can de-politicize the results, and help begin to restore the trust.

    There may be other responsible responses, but I’ll stop there.

    Trump’s actions contrast with this approach, suggesting he doesn’t care whether the public trusts democratic institutions or processes (like the election). In fact, he seems to be actively trying to undermine trust without legitimate reasons. I’m not aware of anything he has said and done to strengthen the faith of these institutions, or suggest he genuinely values these institutions.

    In short, his actions are like that of a despot, not a POTUS.

  13. The “Charlottesville Hoax” Hoax from Robert Tracinski of the Bulwark

    I wanted to attach to original posts about Charlottesville incident, but I couldn’t find it. Anyway, I recently heard a Trump supporter decry Biden quoting Trump’s “many fine people on both sides” in his DNC speech, claiming Trump, in that same press conference also said at one point,

    And you had people, and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.

    Well, I went to watch the video of the clip, and, you know what, he did say this. People interested in the rebuttal to this should read the article, but I will try to sum it up as best as I can:

    For one thing, a closer scrutiny suggests that there’s no evidence that there people outside of the alt-right/white-nationalists/neo-nazi conglomeration–and there is evidence that this was a protest for those groups.

    Tracinski sums up my position:

    The best—the very best—one could say about Trump’s comments on Charlottesville is that he did not intend to praise Nazis but merely blundered into a statement that ended up being disastrously ambiguous. Yet this was hardly the first time. The Trump Tower press conference was his third public statement about Charlottesville, which was necessary because he had already bungled the first two. His wishy-washy first statement, in which he blamed the violence in Charlottesville on “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides,” had set the tone.

    We all know that a president who was basically competent and gave a damn could have delivered an unambiguous condemnation of white nationalism and appealed to unifying American values.

    This last point is critical. Repeatedly and clearly denouncing white supremacy is one of the easiest things a politician can do–or should be. That Trump doesn’t really do this opens the door for various unsavory interpretations, including that he’s a racist.

    i tend to think Trump could have also, rather easily avoided ambiguity by saying something like: I oppose white supremacy and white nationalist–there’s no place for those ideas in our country. I was disturbed by the anti-semitic chanting that I saw the night before as well. Let me say clearly that there’s no place for anti-semitism in our country. Period. There’s a legitimate debate to be had about removing or maintaining Confederate statutes, but we must debate and express our views in a peaceful.” If he want to share his position the statues, he could have–My own views are there’s a place for Confederate statues, but I respect those who disagree–and their right to express this. But we as Americans must do so peacefully and hopefully respecting each side. Again, this excludes hateful ideology like white supremacy and neo-nazism and anti-semitism. These are ideas that are dangerous and un-American.”

    This may not be a great answer, but I just wrote that off the top of my head, and I think that would have been way better, and way clearer than what he said.

    On final point, which is not mentioned in the article. This isn’t an isolate incident. We have a pattern of behavior that makes Trump appear like a racist. Most recently, he gave oxygen to the idea that Kamala Harris may not be American; he continues to use “China virus” to refer to SARS-cov-2, “Pocohontus” to refer to Senator Warren, etc. I could go on.

  14. Using “cult” in reference to Trump and his followers seems like a hyperbolic, partisan attack. Still…

  15. Trump has remarked about this several times, even tweeting a gif indicating he be elected to more than two terms. I also heard him explicitly qualify this by indicating he’s saying this to annoy or troll his opponents. I might be paranoid and taking this too far, but him saying this strikes me as odd. I don’t recall him explicitly tagging his comments as a trolling or a joke. That he does so here makes me think he’s partly serious.

    I wouldn’t mind if a reporter asked him something like: “I know you’re trolling your opponents when you suggested being elected more than two terms, but putting that aside. Suppose there was significant public support for this, would you be open to this? Would you be OK with changing the law to do this?”

    It’s also possible that getting applause from this is a way that just makes him feel good.

  16. First AG Barr aids Trump in dismantling important norms, now Secretary Pompeo joins in

    Thread from Glenn Kessler of WaPo

    There have been so many norms broken in the Trump presidency that it’s hard to keep track of them all. I have covered just about every building DC. So I want to take a moment to note two shocking things from this week, based on my reporting past…1/7
    1. The Secretary of State is speaking at the RNC! My jaw dropped when i saw the speaker list. In my decade of covering diplomacy, I could never imagine that happening….2/7
    Colin Powell in 2004: “‘As secretary of state, I am obliged not to participate in any way, shape, fashion, or form in parochial, political debates. I have to take no sides in the matter.” 3/7 washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/article… …
    During the 2008 RNC, I was traveling in North Africa with Secy of State Condoleezza Rice. Off the record, she was keenly interested in the race, constantly checking the Real Clear Politics website. But she made sure she was far away from public partisanship 4/7 …

    Kessler aslo goes on to talk about the GOP having no party platform:

    2) There is no GOP platform! Two of the best reporting weeks I ever had were covering the Republican platform debates in 1992 and 1996. There was drama, excitement and news as delegates debated economic, social and foreign policy 5/7…
    I watched the party wrestle with important and consequential issues. I followed Ann Stone (ex-wife of Roger) has she tried hard (unsuccessfully) to moderate the anti-abortion plank. The economic battles were especially intense 6/7….
    At the end of the process, Americans understood what the party stood for and believed in. The differences in platforms over the years was especially fascinating. Now History will not know what the GOP stands for now, except fealty to Trump. 7/7

    Edit

    Trump is going out of his way to blow off the Hatch Act this week

    My understanding is the Hatch Act is essentially federal law that prohibits use of ” government titles and resources for political activities. Trump and his administration seems to be violating that in several ways during this RNC (but this is not the first time). Honestly, a part of feels like this a minor infraction, especially compared to other things Trump has done. At the same time, commentators are saying this the first time this is happening.

    While some may think the law, and the violation may not be a huge issue (and I don’t think impeachment would be justified based on one or two violations of this law), the blatant and repeated violation seems like it is. There’s a brazen attitude behind this–a casual disregard for laws, rules, or norms that would constrain Trump’s behavior. Yeah, this is a big deal, especially when you consider other areas he’s done the same thing. Taken together, all of that would be an impeachable offense.

    More on the Hatch Act:

    At times, these restrictions go too far, and they can unduly restrict the speech rights of federal employees. But at their core, they serve an important purpose: Diplomats are supposed to represent all Americans to the rest of the world, and limiting their political activities ensures that they are able to serve this role effectively. The Hatch Act, meanwhile, is meant to avoid even the appearance that a civil servant might use their authority to punish or reward another citizen for their political behavior. These principles are considered so basic, so essential, that even unpaid government interns have to abide by them. So how can it be appropriate for officials as powerful as the president and secretary of state to ignore them?

    Later,

    This is not another example of Trump and his allies cynically pushing the bounds in areas of ethical complexity that have challenged even scrupulous prior administrations; it is instead a bold and bright-line declaration that the values themselves don’t matter. And by celebrating the Trump administration as it does so, the rest of the Republican National Convention is making itself a willing accomplice.

    (emphasis added)

  17. Trump has a pattern of slow, tepid responses when people of color are victims or acts of violence by whites, especially white supremacists/white nationalists

    It’s not that he never expresses anything appropriate, but he’ll take a while to respond or just give a short, almost perfunctory statement. Compare this to his remarks if there is violence by Muslim or person of color. In situations like this, he has commented quickly, sometimes before facts come in.

    Here’s an article about his lack of response for the Jacob Blake shooting.

    Trump stays silent on Jacob Blake shooting but vows to stop violent protests and slams the NBA from CNN

    1. Trump’s comments on Kyle Rittenhouse and Trump supporters driving into Portland.

      Describing paint, from a paintball gun, as defensive seems like a bad thing to say. It’s not inherently defensive–it can be used to provoke, and it can be mistaken for a gun. If you told me a cars/trucks filled with black people shot paintball guns at a crowd–and there were police around–I think I’d be more surprised if they made it out alive.

      Here’s a video clip (see 20 second mark)

      It’s important to note that not all the protestors are simply standing around. Some are provoking the Trump supporters in the cars–swearing, throwing things and one guy swings a bat at one of the flags. This doesn’t justify shooting paintballs, but they shouldn’t be doing this. See below:

      Overall, unless there is important missing contextual information, Trump’s rhetoric supports the original threads premise.

  18. Remember all the bad things Trump has said and done overwhelms the memory. Just trying to remember all the lies can short-circuit one’s brain. That’s what makes this recitation of Trump’s lies, along with the corrections, so impressive. Daniel Dale has almost made the tracking of Trump’s lies a full-time job. That’s what it takes.

    As an aside, for a long time now, for me, the specific lies, and their frequency have been less important than what a reasonable person can and should conclude from them.

    First, he is completely untrustworthy. He behaves like a shady used car salesman (and if we factor in evidence of incompetence, one could reasonable conclude that he is literally a con man).

    Second, the evidence suggests he has little or no shame. He will say almost anything, no matter how outrageous and baseless.

    Third, he no longer deserves presumption of good faith from the press or public.

    To me, these three factors are a bigger deal. All politicians lie, at least, once and a while. I don’t think these three things would apply to any president in my lifetime. If these description accurately apply to Trump, this could and probably should bring down his presidency.

  19. Evictions during COVID-19

    I feel a sense of dread when I think about this topic. The clip below makes that feeling even more palpable and painful. (I forced myself to watch this.)

  20. Trump’s Disrespect for the Military and Intelligence Agencies

    From Jeffery Goldberg of theAtlantic (Note: If you’re not interested in the topic of the article, here’s another reason to read the article. Some say Trump lacks empathy. This article not only provides compelling evidence for this, but the claim might literally be true. What’s in this should bring down a presidency. Whether it does or not, is another matter entirely.)

    When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true.

    Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

    (emphasis added)

    These quotes are hard to believe. Normally, I would assume they’re not true, but I’ve also heard him imply Senator McCain was not a hero because he got captured. I heard him brag about being on the cover of Time magazine in front of the CIA wall of their fallen dead. So as hard-to-believe as these quotes are, I can’t dismiss this, and I tend to think they’re true.

    The feeling that’s in me: This guy has contempt for the military and those who work in the military. When you can speak this way about those who sacrifice their lives or suffered great pain in the service of our country, this seems like a totally fair conclusion. I wonder if this pisses off those on the left, too. I know this pisses me off.

    (Note: I only read the paragraphs I quote above. I’m starting to read the rest of the article, and it gets worse. Also, they didn’t mention this, but Trump’s silence on the Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers comes to mind now.)

    How much worse does it get? There are several more examples, but this one was horrific and stunning:

    On Memorial Day 2017, Trump visited Arlington National Cemetery, a short drive from the White House. He was accompanied on this visit by John Kelly, who was then the secretary of homeland security, and who would, a short time later, be named the White House chief of staff. The two men were set to visit Section 60, the 14-acre area of the cemetery that is the burial ground for those killed in America’s most recent wars. Kelly’s son Robert is buried in Section 60. A first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Robert Kelly was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan. He was 29. Trump was meant, on this visit, to join John Kelly in paying respects at his son’s grave, and to comfort the families of other fallen service members. But according to sources with knowledge of this visit, Trump, while standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, turned directly to his father and said, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” Kelly (who declined to comment for this story) initially believed, people close to him said, that Trump was making a ham-handed reference to the selflessness of America’s all-volunteer force. But later he came to realize that Trump simply does not understand non-transactional life choices.

    (emphasis added)

    (Tangent: Goldberg asks military personnel to speculate as to why Trump has this contemptuous view of the military. Here’s one of the theories:

    The president believes that nothing is worth doing without the promise of monetary payback, and that talented people who don’t pursue riches are “losers.”

    If this correct, then Trump’s friendliness to Putin–his refusal to speak out against electoral interference and Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers–could be tied to money–either money that was given to him and/or future profits (e.g., building a Trump hotel in Russia). It would also explain why he’s fighting so hard to keep his tax forms a secret.

    Edit

    9/4/2020

    Fox News national security correspondent, Jennifer Griffin, talks to two former Senior Trump administration officials, and confirms the story;

    Two former sr Trump admin officials confirm .@JeffreyGoldberg reporting that President Trump disparaged veterans and did not want to drive to honor American war dead at Aisne-Marne Cemetery outside Paris.
    According to one former senior Trump administration official: “When the President spoke about the Vietnam War, he said, ‘It was a stupid war. Anyone who went was a sucker’.”
    This former official heard the President say about American veterans: “What’s in it for them? They don’t make any money.” Source: “It was a character flaw of the President. He could not understand why someone would die for their country, not worth it.”
    I read the source a few quotes from The Atlantic article. This former Trump admin official said, “The President would say things like that. He doesn’t know why people join the military. He would muse, ‘Why do they do it’?”
    Re: trip to mark 100th anniversary of WW I
    Source: “The President was not in a good mood. Macron had said something that made him mad about American reliability and the need perhaps for a European army. He questioned why he had to go to two cemeteries. ‘Why do I have to do two’?”
    President Trump’s staff explained he could cancel (his visit to the cemetery), but he was warned, ‘They (the press) are going to kill you for this’.” The President was mad as a hornet when they did.
    When asked IF the President could have driven to the Aisne-Marne Cemetery, this former official said confidently:
    “The President drives a lot. The other world leaders drove to the cemeteries. He just didn’t want to go.”
    Regarding Trump’s July 4th military parade, during a planning session at the White House after seeing the Bastille Day parade in 2017, the President said regarding the inclusion of “wounded guys” “that’s not a good look” “Americans don’t like that,” source confirms.
    Regarding McCain, “The President just hated John McCain. He always asked, ‘Why do you see him as a hero?” Two sources confirmed the President did not want flags lowered but others in the White House ordered them at half mast. There was a stand off and then the President relented.

    One never knows which of Trump’s many offensive and/or crazy remarks will stand out. This time, for me, it was: “Why do I have to do two?”–questioning why he had to visit two cemeteries to honor U.S. soldiers that died. This made me use profane language. This is his job–and it’s a small thing to do to honor Americans who sacrificed their lives. If this is a burden, he should resign. In fact, even if it’s not, he should resign.

    Video clip of the above:

    Trump now going after the Griffin, calling for her to be fired. She didn’t confirm the “most salacious part” of the Atlantic story, just the other reprehensible parts of it.

    9/5/2020

    Griffin’s response to Trump’s tweets

    Edit

    Jim Acosta of CNN corroborates theAtlantic story (or at least a key part of it):

    The former official, who declined to be named, largely confirmed reporting from Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic magazine, which cited sources who said Trump rejected the idea of a cemetery visit and proceeded to refer to the fallen soldiers as “losers” and “suckers.”

    It seems like being truly transactional is mutually exclusive from being patriotic. If one’s patriotism vanishes when one doesn’t gain anything financially, can we still call that person patriotic?

    David Ignatius doesn’t necessarily corroborate particulars in the Atlantic story, but his impression of the military personnel he talks is consistent with what was said in the article:

    1. Twitter is still exploding about this article. I read it, and I don’t want to admit it, but tears of shame and hate came to me when I read what he said to John Kelly while standing at Kelly’s son’s grave. On Memorial Day. How does anyone stay loyal to this guy?

      62 more days. Maybe.

    2. As an aside, the abject insensitivity is unbelievable, but his lack of understanding of how someone can serve or even sacrifice their lives for their country, raises questions as to why he himself is serving. If, in his capacity as President, Trump had to put his life in danger, I get the feeling he wouldn’t do it.

    3. You knew Trump was going to deny this:

      I was never a big fan of John McCain, disagreed with him on many things including ridiculous endless wars and the lack of success he had in dealing with the VA and our great Vets, but the lowering of our Nations American Flags, and the first class funeral he was given by our….

      ..Country, had to be approved by me, as President, & I did so without hesitation or complaint. Quite the contrary, I felt it was well deserved. I even sent Air Force One to bring his body, in casket, from Arizona to Washington. It was my honor to do so. Also, I never called..

      ….John a loser and swear on whatever, or whoever, I was asked to swear on, that I never called our great fallen soldiers anything other than HEROES. This is more made up Fake News given by disgusting & jealous failures in a disgraceful attempt to influence the 2020 Election!

      And his followers would do the same.

      The people who spoke to Goldberg in the article knew this would happen, too.

      The question is, will they come out and speak publicly about this? I hope a group of them do this, including General Kelly.

      Edit

      Future generations will not believe the level of audacity.

      (Aside: I wonder how long it will take for people to get tired of the lies and dishonesty.)

      Edit

      I’m going to try to put all the people that stick their neck out for Trump here.

      What would make for a perfect story is if Mattis, Dunford, Kelly, et al. are just waiting to let as many people dig their holes; and then at the right moment come out publicly.

      Edit

      WaPo reporters confirm the story.

      Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, and Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg join in the defense.

      Trump was “offended” by the claims in the report, said his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One late Thursday. Another White House official, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, an adviser to Vice President Pence, tweeted that the Atlantic report is “completely false.”

      “Absolutely lacks merit,” said Kellogg, who spoke last week at the Republican National Convention. “I’ve been by the president’s side. He has always shown the highest respect to our active duty troops and veterans with utmost respect paid to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and those wounded in battle.”

      Some new anecdotes:

      In one account, the president told senior advisers that he didn’t understand why the U.S. government placed such value on finding soldiers missing in action because they had performed poorly and gotten caught and deserved what they got, according to a person familiar with the discussion.

      Trump believed people who served in the Vietnam War must be “losers” because they hadn’t gotten out of it, according to a person familiar with the comments. Trump also complained bitterly to then-Chief of Staff John F. Kelly that he didn’t understand why Kelly and others in the military treated McCain, who had been imprisoned and tortured during the Vietnam War, with such reverence. “Isn’t he kind of a loser?” Trump asked, according to the person familiar with Trump’s comments.

      Edit

      First Lady defending Trump:

      Mark Meadows, WH Chief of Staff, defends Trump

      In the time that I’ve known @realDonaldTrump, both as a member of Congress and most recently serving as his Chief of Staff, I’ve seen publicly and privately how he treats our men and women in uniform. I’ve personally accompanied him to Walter Reed and veterans events of all…
      …kinds, where he directly interacts with service members and their families, with and without cameras present. I’ve seen firsthand the level of respect and admiration he has for those who have stepped up to serve our country. The anonymous allegations…
      …contained in the Atlantic story are offensive, false, and utterly devoid of merit. To veterans all over the country reading this nonsense: President Trump loves you, appreciates you, and will ALWAYS be there for you. No false political hit job will EVER change that.

      White House Spokesperson, J. Hogan Gridley:

      Matt Schlapp

      1. I want to comment on the people defending Trump, expressing outrage, attacking Goldberg’s reporting. There are two general outcomes:

        1. The reporting is correct.
        If this is the case, a higher degree of opprobrium towards them should take place. Yes, they’ve constantly lied, but this feels like a different category. I don’t know what the repercussions should be…Actually, it warrants widescale disgust and shunning by the larger society in my view.

        2. The reporting is incorrect.
        Now, if this is the case, the consequences toward Goldberg and
        theAtlantic should be incredibly harsh as well. You cannot mess up on a story like this, especially that relied exclusively sources you did not reveal. Their credibility and trust is on the line and would warrant a big hit if the reporting proves false.

        I would be utterly shocked if #2 turns out to be the case.

      2. Now, a different tack to defending Trump: Trump’s Defenders: He Doesn’t Hate the Troops, He Just ‘Sounds Like an Asshole’ from The Daily Beast

        DB interviewed “eleven senior administration officials, Trump aides, Republican operatives, and former and current friends of the president” for this article. Here’s the defense that the title refers to, which also made me laugh out loud:

        “The president means no disrespect to our troops; it’s just that the way he speaks, he can sound like an asshole sometimes,” one of these sources, a current senior administration official, told The Daily Beast. “That’s how he is [when the cameras are off]…It’s his style.”

        Actually, to be fair, this case below doesn’t seem as ridiculous:

        Yes, they admitted, the commander in chief at times makes callous, tone-deaf comments about American military personnel behind closed doors. But it’s because he hates the wars they’re forced to fight, not the service members themselves.

        This would be more plausible if Trump showed a greater capacity for empathy and didn’t appear so transactional. And some of the sources in the article bolster this when they concede the story about John Kelly at his son’s gravesite rings true:

        Three people with direct knowledge of the president’s private remarks in the past three years about Robert Kelly, as well as other Americans who’ve died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said that Trump had made similar-sounding comments to them, too. This included the president mentioning that their service in these war zones was a “waste,” or that U.S. military personnel in these conflicts had “died for nothing,” or that the fallen “should have been doing something else.”

        However, these sources, who would only speak on the condition of anonymity, all independently insisted that Trump was not disrespecting the U.S. war dead: He was merely stating a belief that they should not have been sent overseas to fight and die in these wars in the first place. Each said that the president often has a brash, ill-mannered way of talking that can obscure what they believe to be his intended message, especially in moments when Trump is trying to convey sympathy or empathy.

        HIs ability to convey sympathy and empathy seems so bad that you can’t blame people for thinking he has very little of both. And again, he has a pattern of expressing cruel things as well as thinking very transactionally.

      3. Two devastating arguments regarding the Atlantic article, drawing on Trump’s statements about the military prior to the article. I think Mayor Buttigieg’s responses below was especially effective. Both are worth watching.

        I think this is a good pairing with the DB article above–rebutting the he cares (but he’s a jerk) argument. Sometimes being a jerk actually signifies you don’t really care.

      4. Rebuttals to Trump’s tweet above:

        Besides video of Trump saying that he didn’t think McCain was a hero because he didn’t like people who were captured (or something to that effect), Trump also tweeted the following in 2015:

        Also, there is this testimony from Miles Taylor, former Chief of Staff for DHS:

        I heard Taylor recall this anecdote. He said he was in Australia with the DHS secretary and was woken up at 12 midnight by White House staff saying that he (in U.S. consulate in Australia?) has to raise the flags because Trump is angry.

    4. Trump going after General Kelly

      Watch him pound Kelly for about 2 minutes. And watch him give a more details about why he didn’t visit the cemetery , and then calling the Atlantic a disgrace for this story. This is worth watching.

      If I were Kelly, Mattis Dunford, et al., and I already decided I would go public, I could see myself talking to Jeff Goldberg anonymously–wait for Trump and his sychophants to deny and attack–and then come out publicly. What Trump says here is exactly what I would have wanted. Indeed, I wish General Kelly was there and then called him out a la Marshall McLuhan style in Annie Hall, confronting Trump with all his lies right to his face.

      Edit

      Well, so much for the theory that they were planning on going public:

      This is disappointing, and it would be messed up if he’s one of the sources.

      9/5/2020

      I’ve had more time to think about Kelly’s stance (if indeed that’s his stance). There are understandable reasons for Kelly not to speak out, but using the long-practiced–and important, I might add–norm of military leaders not criticizing a (sitting?) president. One big reason? General Mattis publicly excoriated Trump, and General Kelly publicly concurred–he’s already spoken out publicly. Another reason is that Trump is different. Mattis, other former Joint Chiefs of Staff, former Secretaries of Defense have publicly condemned Trump not for debatable decisions and policies. They all believed that by using the military to clear largely peaceful protestors for a photo-op–and for the Secretary Esper to refer to U.S. as a “battle space”–Trump had crossed a line. (Trump also spoke to governors, chiding them for not dominating the protestors.) When you agree with the statement that “Don­ald Trump is the first pres­i­dent in my life­time who does not try to unite the Amer­i­can peo­ple — does not even pre­tend to try. In­stead, he tries to di­vide us. We are wit­ness­ing the con­se­quences of three years of this de­lib­er­ate ef­fort.”–you’re publicly acknowledging this president is not normal–and a danger. (They also know that Russia is actively trying to divide us, and they’ve seen Trump’s strange sycophancy towards Putin.) They obviously see him actively undermining the faith in the upcoming elections. There’s more examples of authoritarian behavior. (Remember Trump suggested suspending elections?) The norm should not be followed if you believe the president governs like an authoritarian.

    5. Trump’s trying out a new defense

      One problem: He’s always bragging about how he’s boosted the military budget and built up on the military.

      It would be interesting to see if the military rank-and-file will be OK with him publicly throwing the military leadership under the bus. Of course, this definitely won’t work if significant numbers of the rank-and-file don’t trust him.

      To me, this is another example of the used car salesman, who shamelessly say anything to close the deal.

      9/8/2020

      To me, the key is that Mnuchin lied. I’m less alarmed by Trump saying this to the generals–unless this is totally unheard of–that is, this is completely inappropriate. Without knowing the cultural norms or being in that situations, I have a harder time gauging this. I wouldn’t be surprised if, other presidents spoke this way in private to the generals, though.

  21. NATO, and its importance, is something that depends on national politicians, journalists, and academics. If Trump wants to weaken and/or pull out of NATO, and Republicans and other elites (which includes conservative media) say nothing, I fear Americans who are not into politics or foreign policy will not care, or they’ll be confused, not knowing what to think. In other words, while I believe our relationship to NATO is very significant, dealing with this issue in the U.S.’s best interests depends entirely on the elites. They have to either convince the general public or just do the right thing

    Right now the Republicans who know better are just letting Trump weaken our alliances and the rules based international system. This is really bad, and it’s one of many ways congressional Republicans and conservative media is failing–nay, betraying–the country.

  22. Trump and his supporters want to scare people about the threat of Antifa but the Dept. of Homeland Security names a bigger threat.

    None of the drafts POLITICO reviewed referred to a threat from Antifa, the loose cohort of militant left-leaning agitators who senior Trump administration officials have described as domestic terrorists.

    Later,

    “Lone offenders and small cells of individuals motivated by a diverse array of social, ideological, and personal factors will pose the primary terrorist threat to the United States,” the draft reads. “Among these groups, we assess that white supremacist extremists – who increasingly are networking with likeminded persons abroad – will pose the most persistent and lethal threat.

    In the following thread, Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare goes over various drafts of the report above. The main point is that the initial drafts list white supremacy as the greatest domestic threat, but that term is later replaced by “domestic violence extremism.” But Wittes says that the substance of later draft remains largely unchanged–i.e., white supremacy is still the greatest threat. It’s hard to not to interpret this as DHS not wanting to set off Trump–i.e., Trump will get angry they say white supremacy is the biggest threat. (On a side note, I recently listened to an interview with Elizabeth Neumann, who worked on preventing domestric threats in the DHS. I believe she mentioned that they would be cautious about using the term “white supremacy” as well.)

    1. Part of the fear-mongering involves describes protests as rios, anarchy, and emphasizing violence.

      (Note: I didn’t read this yet.)

    2. Doc Rivers addressing the fear promoted by RNC

      I had only heard a few of his comments when they came out. I just listened to all of them, and I found them to powerful. Recommended.

      Lincoln Project did a good job of using Rivers’s words in an ad:

  23. When I think of the word “powder keg” in relation to the political unrest and division, here’s a concrete situation that comes to mind:

    One or two people with a quick trigger, and it can get crazy. I’m praying we will not see violence in the streets in the weeks before and after the election.

    Apropos of the above: What’s the worst that could happen? from WaPo

    Transition Integrity Project “built a series of war games, sought out some of the most accomplished Republicans, Democrats, civil servants, media experts, pollsters and strategists around, and asked them to imagine what they’d do in a range of election and transition scenarios.”

    The article goes over the various scenarios, four of them–Biden wins in landslide; Biden wins in a close election; Trump wins electoral but not popular vote; results remain undecided for a long time. Only the first lead to a relatively smooth transition. The group concluded that violence in the streets and other problems would occur in the other three scenarios.

    The article also lists things that can be done now as well.

  24. The AG is supposed to be attorney for the people, not the POTUS

    But the AG–or in this specific case, the DOJ–is now, literally the attorney for Trump.

    Justice Dept. intervenes on behalf of Trump in defamation case brought by woman who accused him of rape from WaPo

    The Justice Department on Tuesday intervened in the defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says President Trump raped her years ago, moving the matter to federal court and signaling it wants to make the U.S. government — rather than Trump himself — the defendant in the case.

    In filings in federal court in Manhattan, the Justice Department asserted that Trump was “acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States” when he denied during interviews in 2019 that he had raped journalist E. Jean Carroll more than two decades ago in a New York City department store. Carroll had sued Trump over that denial in November.

    Without being a lawyer, it’s hard to know if this is proper or not, but it sure doesn’t sound that way. Because Trump denied that he raped someone many years ago, his denial constitutes an act within the office of POTUS? So if a sitting POTUS has committed a crime prior to being in office, and he denies it while in office, he has acted within his office–and therefore the DOJ can defend him? That doesn’t sound right.

    Edit

    People with legal expertise (that I follow) weigh in:

  25. Is Trump a great con man or a bad one?

    On one hand, he might be the greatest in our history (although he had help–specifically, The Apprentice TV show) or in the world. On the other hand, his schtick is too obvious. A recent case in point:

    I can’t believe he’s still sticking with bit about Mexico will pay for the wall. What do most of his supporters think? Do they know that it’s not going to happen, but they like how this line makes them feel, sort of like watching professional wrestling? I wonder how much of their support for Trump is similar to watching pro wrestling. If this is the case, in some ways, this speaks better for them–versus if they genuinely believe Mexico is actually paying for the wall or will pay. Then again, it’s sad that they view the presidency in a similar way pro wrestling (or reality TV).

    On a related note, it recently hit me that Trump’s pushing hydrochloroquine is literally classic snake oil salesmanship–only he’s doing during a pandemic. The suggestion to use bleach, the promise of a vaccine soon are also part of the same schtick.

    The line about the virus will disappear is also part of the con. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

  26. Mitchell, I think you’ll appreciate the writing here:

    I like Nichols’s patriotism and center-right approach, but I don’t always have a high regard for him in other areas. But he is a good writer.

    1. Actually, if you don’t want to read too much about politics, I wouldn’t bother. The writing is good, but it’s not worth having to read unpleasant content. I just read it and thought–Nichols may not be a top-tier intellectual and he may be immature, but he’s a good writer.

  27. There were/are legitimate concerns and criticisms for Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server and using her personal email for State Department matters. But Republicans who were outraged at this–thought it was disqualifying–their reaction to the following should be vesuvian:

    That it’s not reveals that the Republicans concerns for national security are hollow and a sham. This is not the only example–there is a pattern of reckless behavior. (Is he still using an insecure phone?) There several people saying he doesn’t read his presidential daily briefing. To me, the fact that congressional Republicans are willing to jeopardize national security, to this degree–that these aren’t red lines–continues to really surprise me.

    (If there is one ever-so-small positive take from this. Maybe he didn’t give Israeli intel to the Russians because he’s compromised. It was just part of the way he tries to impress people in general.)

  28. I really want someone to convince me I’m overreacting. This comment reminds me some previous comments–e.g., at his rallies during the campaign, OK-ing violence (“I’ll pay for your legal bills”); on Duterte’s extra-judicial killings–“He’s doing it the right way;” saying we have to be tougher or terrorists including resorting to torture or “worse”; wanting to sharpen the spikes on the wall to impale immigrants trying to climb over it; telling the police to not protect the head of someone they arrest, when the person is going into the car; etc.)

    The natural reaction is to assume he doesn’t mean this–he doesn’t really mean the things he said up there. Believing these things makes me feel like I’m irrational. Right now I recall the words of Masha Gessen, in her piece, Autocracy: Rules for Survival. Rule #1?

    Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. Back in the 1930s, The New York Times assured its readers that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was all posture. More recently, the same newspaper made a telling choice between two statements made by Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov following a police crackdown on protesters in Moscow: “The police acted mildly—I would have liked them to act more harshly” rather than those protesters’ “liver should have been spread all over the pavement.” Perhaps the journalists could not believe their ears. But they should—both in the Russian case, and in the American one.

    Also see this thread from a CNN reporter. This one is about Roger Stone’s recent comments:

    THREAD: Roger Stone was supposed to be in prison now, having been convicted of 7 federal crimes. But thanks to Trump, he’s a free man — and can call into Alex Jones’ conspiracy show. He did Thursday, and urged Trump to do a bunch of illegal things regarding the election. (1/6)
    The liberal group Media Matters was the first to publicize Stone’s comments, which include a slew of completely false statements about voter fraud, blatant threats of voter intimidation, and a pubic call for Trump to launch a coup if he loses. (2/6)

    Among other things, Stone urged Trump to order the arrest of the Clintons, Mark Zuckerberg and Harry Reid. He urged Trump to seize all ballots in Nevada after the polls close. This is like a federal takeover of the election, which would probably violate the Constitution. (3/6)

    Think this is irrelevant drivel? Think again. One of Stone’s recommendations to Trump was to declare martial law or invoke the Insurrection Act after the election. Trump has ALREADY picked up on this. Look at what he said on Fox about “insurrection.” (4/6)

    Then there’s this from Stone: “[Former DNI] Dan Coats is a moron… I’d like to go back to the personnel files to see who it is that recommended his appointment to the President.” Well, it was PENCE, according to this deep-dive from Robert Draper of the NYT. (5/6)

    Stone mastered the “dark arts” of politics for decades & calls himself an “agent provocateur.” His unethical, illegal activity has been exposed many times. The law finally caught up with him this year — if not for Trump, he would’ve watched this election from a prison cell. (6/6)

    I want to dismiss Stone’s crazy talk as well, but I don’t think that’s a good idea.

  29. Bizarro World

    And yet,

    Senator Ron Johnson is also conducting an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter, which is similar, if not the same, as a disinformation campaign promoted by Andriy Derkach, the Russian agent, in the title above.

    U.S. Intel Repeatedly Warned About Rudy’s ‘Russian Agent’ Pal from the The Daily Beast

    Part 2:

    How are all the matters connected? Answer:

    1. There is one obvious and relatively easy thing that Trump could do that would greatly increase his chances of winning. One: implore Americans to wear masks. This, by itself, could decrease the virus–which go then help the economy and lead to opening schools. If the economy were getting back in gear now, and schools were opening, this would be a big boost to his campaign.

    2. Instead of attempting legitimate ways of winning the election, he’s resorting to illegitimate and improper–I would say authoritarian methods–like undermining the faith of the elections, implying that the winner should be determined on the night of election, otherwise the elections are not legitimate. Or using Russian assistance to win the election. (And the Republicans and conservative media are fine with all this.)

    This leads me to a tweet I saw this morning:

    Both of these matters–plus the fact that Trump has been hammering the legitimacy of the elections, leads me me to this tweet:

    It seems like Trump can’t or is not comfortable governing and operating like a normal liberal democratic leader–his MO is authoritarian. Moreover, most congressional Republicans either tacitly (by their silence) or actively approve of this. Ditto Fox News.

    This is the main story right now–the story the press should be hammering. If they fail to do this, if they fail to get this message to Americans they will have failed the republic.

    Update

    Trump retweets response to FBI Director Wray:

    Rant: If Trump is right, why is Wray saying otherwise? Trump has power to get the intel. He can show Gang of 8–which would be compelling evidence that Wray is downplaying a threat–which would be a big deal and even point to politicization on his part. The Republicans could then defend this position vigorously and maybe discredit Wray. Since none of this is happening, I’m concluding Trump has zero evidence of this. And I believe Wray.

    1. I focus most of my criticism of Trump and Republicans on matters involving our constitutional system and their erosion and attacks on the norms and institutions that are critical to it.

      But here’s something worth considering:

      As far as I know Trump and the GOP have no real replacement for this–despite having many years to provide one. And Trump promised about a month ago to reveal his plan. It’s all a sham. They just want to get rid of Obamacare without a replacement, thinking it will reduce the cost of government, reduce taxes, or do something to help their wealthy donors. They don’t care if millions will lose their health care.

      I’m open to moving on from Obamacare–if there’s a better plan. They’re not even offering a plan! They don’t care if they erase the positive accomplishments of Obamacare (e.g., millions receiving coverage, affordable care for people with pre-existing conditions, etc.)

  30. Say it plainly: The president is a psychopath op-ed by Alan D. Blotcky and Seth D. Norrholm

    The two psychologists are not from prestigious institutions, and I’ve never heard of them before, so I’m not sure how trustworthy and authoritative they are with regard to their psychological analysis. I’m also am not comfortable calling Trump a “psychopath.” But I agree with their description of Trump:

    He breaks norms, rules, and laws with impunity.

    He lies, on average, 15 times a day.

    He peddles fake conspiracy theories and irrational magical thinking.

    He has been accused of sexually predatory behavior by at least 25 women.

    He blames, scapegoats and gaslights as easily as he breathes.

    He undermines the vital role of the free press because he abhors oversight and accountability.

    His lies and anti-scientific advice and intentional downplaying of the coronavirus pandemic has led to countless American deaths.

    He is callous and cold and unfeeling because he has no conscience.

    He denigrates and humiliates anyone and everyone in his path.

    He has no respect for military heroes or renowned experts.

    He is racist and xenophobic.

    He incites violence and culture wars.

    He is obsessed with power and adoration.

    He is a greedy opportunist.

    He is corrupt to the core.

    Additionally, I totally agree with the idea of fully accepting that Trump poses a real danger–versus dismissing this possibility.

    For those who think I’m overreacting or too partisan, if Trump’s pattern of outrageous claims are not enough to conclude that he poses a danger, what would should we look for? I assume his immigration policies that have resulted in separation of many parents and children and the handling of the pandemic (or even Puerto Rico disaster) don’t count. So what would? If it has to be something both catastrophic and undeniably a product of a horrible person, that would obviously not be a good indicator. So what would be sufficient evidence to at least take seriously that Trump poses a serious threat?

    1. I saw this yesterday morning. I’m so impressed by what seems largely to be off script, a really well-organized, well-structured case. She would have been an interesting presidential candidate, and was in my top two during the Democratic primary season.

    2. There’s so much information that she had to recall and organize, too. Plus, the passion she brought. I really liked her as a candidate, too. I would have liked her for a VP, but I like Harris as well.

  31. Trump’s Tax Forms

    The New York Times has another big article on Trump’s tax forms. I started to read it, but I found it a bit complicated and hard to follow. I might have to read it in installments.

    I’ve heard commentary on the article, and one of my biggest concerns Trump’s debt and who he owes that money to. I agree with those who think this is a national security risk. (The fact that this has been a question throughout his presidency warranted ending it in my opinion.)

    Here’s a thread from Adam Davidson, a New Yorker writer. Davidson also wrote for NPR’s Planet Money, too, and he wrote a long piece on a Trump hotel project in Azerbaijan.

    Some clear implications from the Trump Tax story:

    – He blew through other people’s money. His dad’s. Then Mark Burnett’s. Plus loans.
    – he starts blowing through the most money in 2011, when the known sources disappear.
    – He had a new source of funds.
    1/
    – This new source had more money and seems to have put fewer restrictions on his spending.
    – Only question for us as a nation: what is that new source of money?
    – As I’ve written obsessively, 2011 is when he gets into business with the Mammadovs.
    2/
    – Soon after, he’s in business with the Agalarovs, flirting with Georgians and Kazakhs with ties to Putin.
    – All of these groups are—between 2011 and 2016—known to be laundering money through golf courses.
    3/
    – Golf courses are one of the best ways to launder large amounts of money.
    So, next step: look to Scotland. That is where he spent this money, where the businesses make the least sense.
    The math seems clear: *somebody* was giving him 100s of millions to spend.
    4/
    Until we know who, we don’t know who this man owes and what they know about him.
    5/end

    The money laundering thing is important. At this point, my guess is that there is a greater than 50% chance than he has laundered money, and if I would guess it has Russian ties.

    9/29/2020

    More reasons Davidson believes Trump used his golf courses for money laundering:

    This is why I think Trump is doing more than tax avoidance.

    This is from financials for the Aberdeen property. It’s one page from one year, but tells a story repeated year after year.

    I hope at least some stick with me (esp. @susannecraig @russbuettner @mmcintire )
    1/
    Image
    @mentions
    The thing everyone reports is the losses–the shareholder (Trump) has lost more than £7M.

    But the interesting stuff is the fixed asset value and the creditors–over one year.
    Trump is all of them: he owns the asset, lends the money, owes the money, is owed the money.
    2/
    @mentions
    We see the same process year after year. He lends himself millions, the asset value is increased by that same number of millions.

    This happens in many years when he does no work on the property–no investment, no building.

    It happened through the 2008 crash.
    3/
    @mentions
    Aberdeen was collapsing from the overall financial crisis and the–locally–far worse collapse of North Sea Oil. Property values were shrinking.

    Trump Aberdeen saw the same process–no development, but huge loans from Trump and huge increase in claimed asset value.
    4/
    Those loans are actually spent. Here is Page 10.

    You see: major outflows of cash for operations and capital. The cash on hand at end of year is only £94K.

    Again–this happens in years when he spends no money on developing the course or resort.
    5/


    Image
    @mentions
    There’s much more to say–each line here is fascinating.

    But the overall picture is crystal clear: Every year, Trump lends millions to himself, spends all that money on something, and claims the asset is worth all the money he spent.
    6/
    @mentions
    He cannot have spent all that money on the properties. We have the planning docs. We know how much he spent–it’s far less than what he claims.

    The money truly disappears. It goes from one pocket to another pocket and then the pocket is opened to reveal nothing is there.
    7/
    A bit of this could be explained as tax avoidance or fraud. But he is going to enormous effort to falsify upwards the overall valuation of the property–the opposite of what he’d do if this was solely tax fraud.
    8/
    @mentions
    Instead, this is a huge effort to mask a money pit as an appreciating asset–in other words, one he can’t write off.

    That is why I am skeptical of the idea that this is all his own money.

    I have shown these docs to many accountants, lawyers, prosecutors, FBI agent, etc.
    9/
    Nobody has come up with a plausible legitimate reason for these accounting shenanigans. And all agree it’s a bit ornate and not quite right for simple tax avoidance.

    The most likely explanation is, of course, money laundering.
    10/
    Remember: these are the cleanest financials we have from the Trump Org. They are audited and made public because of UK rules.

    So, whatever is going on here should be the least sketchy thing he’s doing.

    Please please please check my math and my analysis.
    11/
    You can do this at home.

    Go to:
    beta.companieshouse.gov.uk

    search “Trump International Golf” and open the FULL ACCOUNTS for each year.

    You see a clear trend:
    From 2005 to 2010, the disappearing cash is relatively low–a million or two a year.
    12/
    Then it grows and grows from 2010 to 2016, far outpacing his actual spending.

    Then, when he becomes president, it all stops. It just remains at its inflated value without the annual loan. Which is weird, …
    13/
    The family was claiming to be preparing a massive investment and surely needed money for architects, designers, planning docs, lawyers, etc.

    Why would he turn off this mechanism in 2017?
    14/
    I am blown away by the NYT reporters work. A great 40,000 foot view of the whole forest.

    But you also have to look at each tree and see what is going on.

    These financials are clear: this is not a golf business, it’s a money disappearing business.
    15/
    I posted the wrong assets page on tweet 5. Here it is.

    But, again, you can do all this at home. Free and sort of easy.
    16/end
    Oh, forgot to make the most obvious point:

    If this is a money disappearing business and it is not only tax fraud, then he is making money disappear for somebody else and charging some sort of fee. Which might explain why a money-losing golf course pays huge fees to its owner.

    More:

    I believe I’ve said this several times before, but I think it’s worth repeating: Money-laundering isn’t just about corruption or stealing–it’s a potential national security threat, particularly if one is laundering money from a country that will threatened to expose the person unless they do things that will help their national interest. I know of at least one country that does this.

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