40 thoughts on “Journal During the Trump Regime (9)

  1. I wanted to touch on other points from this Harvard study:
    Mail-In Voter Fraud: Anatomy of a Disinformation Campaign, which is based on “…on analyzing over fifty-five thousand online media stories, five million tweets, and seventy-five thousand posts on public Facebook pages garnering millions of engagements.”

    Again, the report is about the way Trump, Fox News, and the RNC (what the report refers to as elite sources versus social media influence, are main spreaders of disinformation regarding mail ballots. That is, all of them are intentionally giving false information about the reliability of mail-in ballots.

    Our findings here suggest that Donald Trump has perfected the art of harnessing mass media to disseminate and at times reinforce his disinformation campaign by using three core standard practices of professional journalism. These three are: elite institutional focus (if the President says it, it’s news); headline seeking (if it bleeds, it leads); and balance, neutrality, or the avoidance of the appearance of taking a side.

    The report mentions that Trump uses the first two to quickly bring the disinformation to the public. As for the third element, the report says this:

    He relies on the latter professional practice to keep audiences that are not politically pre-committed and have relatively low political knowledge confused, because it limits the degree to which professional journalists in mass media organizations are willing or able to directly call the voter fraud frame disinformation.

    This is one of the biggest challenges the mainstream media (not Fox) has faced, and they really haven’t come up with a good solution. If Trump wins and the republic further erodes or is destroyed, this failure will be one of the key contributors.

    The primary cure for the elite-driven, mass media communicated information disorder we observe here is unlikely to be more fact checking on Facebook. Instead, it is likely to require more aggressive policing by traditional professional media, the Associated Press, the television networks, and local TV news editors of whether and how they cover Trump’s propaganda efforts, and how they educate their audiences about the disinformation campaign the president and the Republican Party have waged.

    I agree with the above, but the way the media has handled this has not be encouraging.

    One of the main problems the media faces is what I’ve been thinking of as Trump-22. This is a specific variant of Catch-22, and it goes something like this:

    Trump, the Republican party, and Fox News have embraced authoritarianism.

    But by saying this, a person sounds irrational and hyper-partisan, discrediting the person. The more emphatic the person is, the more irrational they appear. Even providing evidence can, ironically, increase this impression.

    But if the person is less emphatic, or does not provide much evidence, then their message may fail to reach and/or convince a larger audience.

    I think the mainstream media has not solved this dilemma.

    I do think there are possible solutions to this, which I’ve discussed before, but won’t go into here.

  2. Trump’s Tax Forms (Note:This was originally posted on 9/29/2020 in the “Journal (8)”. That thread is taking too long too load, so I’m going to move a few recent posts into this thread.)

    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.

    10/19/2020

    In the excerpt of remarks Trump made today (below), Trump claims that anyone taking a big political donation would be compromised. And he says, “Because when they call me, you know, you’re a loyal person, and what happens is, hey you know, you’ll do things that are a lot of money,” which sounds like he means “you’ll do things for someone giving you a lot of money.” My takeaway: Who does Trump owe $400 million to? Like Trump said, he’s comprised by that debt to the person.

    1. Trump Records Shed New Light on Chinese Business Pursuits from the NYT

      And it turns out that China is one of only three foreign nations — the others are Britain and Ireland — where Mr. Trump maintains a bank account, according to an analysis of the president’s tax records, which were obtained by The New York Times. The foreign accounts do not show up on Mr. Trump’s public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names. The identities of the financial institutions are not clear.

      The Chinese account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management L.L.C., which the tax records show paid $188,561 in taxes in China while pursuing licensing deals there from 2013 to 2015.

      Until last year, China’s biggest state-controlled bank rented three floors in Trump Tower, a lucrative lease that drew accusations of a conflict of interest for the president.

      As with Russia, where he explored hotel and tower projects in Moscow without success, Mr. Trump has long sought a licensing deal in China. His efforts go at least as far back as 2006, when he filed trademark applications in Hong Kong and the mainland. Many Chinese government approvals came after he became president. (The president’s daughter Ivanka Trump also won Chinese trademark approvals for her personal business after she joined the White House staff.)

      In 2017, the company reported an unusually large spike in revenue — some $17.5 million, more than the previous five years’ combined. It was accompanied by a $15.1 million withdrawal by Mr. Trump from the company’s capital account.

      On the president’s public financial disclosures for that year, he reported the large revenue figure, and described it only as “management fees and other contract payments.” One significant event for the company that is known to have occurred in 2017 was the buyout of its management contract for the SoHo hotel in New York, which Bloomberg reported to have cost around $6 million.

      Outside of China, Mr. Trump has had more success attracting wealthy Chinese buyers for his properties in other countries. His hotels and towers in Las Vegas and Vancouver, British Columbia — locales known for attracting Chinese real estate investors — have found numerous Chinese purchasers, and in at least one instance drew the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

      During the 2016 campaign, a shell company controlled by a Chinese couple from Vancouver bought 11 units, for $3.1 million, in the Las Vegas tower Mr. Trump co-owns with the casino magnate Phil Ruffin. The owner of a Las Vegas-based financial services firm told The Times he was later visited by two F.B.I. agents asking about the company behind the purchases, which he said had used his office address in incorporation papers without his knowledge. It is not known what became of the inquiry.

      On another note,

      Edit

      This makes me think of his minimal commentary and lack of support for the protestors in Hong Kong, or his supportive commment of the Uighur concentration campe. (I gotta go find those.)

  3. Holy crap! (Note: This was originally posted on 10/1/2020 in the “Journal (8)” thread.)

    (Note: The next posts were in the replies to the one above.)

    I saw someone wonder if this is true–given how much he lies. The person suggested maybe Trump will proclaim some miracle cure right before election. Here’s what I hate: I can’t dismiss this. Trump lies so much, has no shame–can anyone tell me that this notion should be easily dismissed? Lying about this would be so dang low. Is it possible that he would lie about this? I’m honestly not sure. I’m annoyed.

    There’s also the issue of his irresponsible behavior–does Biden, Pence, Barrett (the SCOTUS nominee), any of staff, etc., have it? He was talking a lot, loudly during the debates….So disgusting.

    And then what if all this is a lie. Frick.

    Reply

    Trump says he and first lady have tested positive for coronavirus from WaPo

    After White House officials learned of Hicks’ symptoms, Trump and his entourage flew to New Jersey, where he attended a fundraiser and delivered a speech. Trump was in close contact with dozens of other people, including campaign supporters at a roundtable event.

    What the heck! I shouldn’t be saying this because I’ve seen the maskless rallies, but…I’m still getting super annoyed.

    Late Thursday, Trump tweeted that he and the First Lady, who traveled with Hicks and the president on Tuesday, were in quarantine.

    Man, when did he and the first lady get the virus? If they got it on Tuesay, is that before or after the debates? Before or after meeting Barrett?

    Also, my understanding is that the press learned of Hicks getting this–the WH didn’t announce it. Would they have done so? I’m shaking my head man.

    And should we just believe all this? I’m not saying it’s not true, but I’m saying i can’t just totally believe it, either–and I blame Trump for that!

    10/2/2020

    From NYT:

    White House officials had hoped to keep the news about Ms. Hicks from becoming public, to no avail.

    His (Trump) week included a series of events in which he played down the virus in front of crowds large and small, all without wearing a mask.

    (emphasis added)

    None of this irresponsible behavior is new, but it’s still irresponsible and wrong.

    Update

    I don’t whether to believe this. No idea.

    Update

    OK, if people outside of the Trump administration are getting the virus, I think this suggests Trump, Melania, and Hicks do have the virus. Having said that, I have no idea about the severity of Trump’s condition. I do not trust Trump or his doctors.

    And again, the Trump administration irresponsible behavior may have contributed to three journalists getting the virus. I hope none of the White House staff get the virus.

    Update

    Others who have gotten the virus: Kellyanne Conway, President(?) of Nortre Dame university (can’t remember his name); Sen. Tom Tills (R, NC); Bill Stepien, campaign manager.

    On another note, Security Service members expressing feeling that they’re being mistreated:

    Secret Service agents expressed their anger and frustration to colleagues and friends Friday, saying that the president’s actions have repeatedly put them at risk. “He’s never cared about us,” one agent told a confidant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal reaction.

    Former Secret Service agents said it was unheard of for agents to openly complain about their president but that some currently in the ranks had become convinced during the pandemic that Trump was willing to put his protectors in harm’s way.

    Agents who work in field offices around the country complained that since late August, they are no longer being tested when they return home from working at a rally for the president.

    “This administration doesn’t care about the Secret Service,” one current agent relayed in an internal discussion group. “It’s so obvious.”

    (emphasis added)

    Secret Service agents accompanied their family to the club. Among some of those agents, there was concern that Ivanka Trump’s decision to leave home had increased their risk of exposure to the coronavirus. There was no routine testing for the disease among agents assigned to the club, and agents said they were rebuffed by superiors when they asked for ultra-protective N95 masks, according to two people familiar with those discussions. Like others, the people spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

    Last paragraph:

    Back at the White House on Friday, however, there were signs that Trump’s inner circle would still resist change — even after this. Officials said that, even after the president’s diagnosis, masks would continue to be optional in the West Wing.

    10/3/2020

    From PBS News correspondent Lisa Dejardins

    Updated: 10/8/2020

    Reply (10/2/2020)

    Judge Amy Coney Barrett also tested negative I believe. Good news for both, but it’s important to remember (and I forgot) that it can take days for the virus to incubate. So, they’re not out of the woods yet.

    On the bad side, Senator Mike Lee and Ronna McDaniel, GOP party chair (?), tested positive.

    10/3/2020

    I’ve seen that VP Pence is planning to go to a campaign next Thursday. Saying this is irresponsible becomes tiresome, but this is the truth. Others have pointed out that he should protect himself since the POTUS is sick. Additionally, I believe he is still within the incubation window. By the way, this should apply to Biden as well. I don’t think he should be traveling–or at least he should not be interacting with large numbers of people or coming into close contact with others–not until he’s outside the incubation window.

    The VP debate doesn’t seem like a good idea as well, unless the two candidates don’t need to travel.

    On another another note, regarding irresponsible behavior endangering others:

    and this:

    Is it excessive and irrational to say he should resign? I feel like newspapers and the public should call for their resignation. Actually this should have happened several months ago. In the future, if future presidents, Democrat or Republican, behave as recklessly–and openly attack the legitimacy of the elections, fail to commit to a peaceful transfer, incite violence on or after Election Day–if they persist, Congress, news outlets, and the public should call for his/her resignation. If that doesn’t occur, impeachment and removal would be warranted.

    10/5/2020

    10/6/2020

    What a mess.

    1. Reckless disregard for the well-being of others

      Re: Secret Service claiming that Trump doesn’t care about them

      Evidence for that claim.

      According to his twitter bio, this person is a medical professional working at Walter Reed:

      This made me angry when I first saw this.

      But I’ll try to be more objective and fair. What comes to mind are presidents that go out and interact in public–like President Clinton going to restaurants that average citizens frequent. I recall reading that this made it more challenging for the Secret Service. Is this tantamount to not caring about the Secret Service? Is it selfish? Maybe. On the other hand, the idea that the POTUS can and does interact with average citizens in the places the latter regularly frequents can be seen as a projection of democratic values.

      By riding out of Walter Reed, Trump may not be projecting democratic values, but maybe he wants to…bolster the stock market? Which would be good for the economy? But is this worth putting Secret Service at high risk? I think all of this is harder to believe given all of Trump’s actions up to this point. What specifically comes to mind is testimony from people like John Bolton, his former National Security Adviser, who said that Trump puts politics ahead of the interests of the nation and other people.

      10/5/2020

      My understanding is that the WH hasn’t contacted journalists about this. Here’s one testimony of this:

      My understanding is that the WH didn’t immediately contact and inform WH staff and federal employees(?) within working within the WH as well. See below.

      10/9/2020

      Conclusion:

      Trump didn’t test negative before the debate. If he did, why wouldn’t the WH provide this information immediately?

      So the two likely possibilities seem to be: a) He never got tested, or b) he tested positive. Either would be irresponsible disregard for the safety of Biden and all the people at the debate. (And I believe several workers who helped set up the debate did come down with the virus.)

      10/9/2020

    2. Trump returns to White House, downplaying virus that hospitalized him and turned West Wing into a ‘ghost town’ from WaPo

      “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life,” Trump tweeted Monday afternoon, three days after he was transported to Walter Reed for treatment. “We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”

      I try to be measured and avoid using insulting language, but this is both idiotic and irresponsible. Wearing masks is far from allowing the virus to dominate one’s life. And to embrace such a view—to encourage others to do so—is recklessly disregarding the well-being for others, not just in terms of health, but also in terms of economic well-being and educational opportunities. People who work in the White House will be at risk. And what of the millions of Trump’s followers who take their cues from him?

      By the way, what do you think Trump’s thought process is here? Is this message a product of his normal MO—i.e., work to create an image of success and optimism, while ignoring the reality? In short, a con. Maybe this is a deluded notion of heroic leadership—which he wants to link with the success of his administration (e.g., My administration has developed great treatments for the virus.)

      What we know right now, regardless of whether Trump recovers fully, or if his health plummets—is that he is taking a big—foolish—gamble. If his conditions worsens, these words will come back to haunt him—revealing his foolishness to Americans and the world. My sense is that he’s not cognizant of this, or he doesn’t care. He’ll just try to talk his way out of this, including shamelessly lying, relying on the memory of Americans to be short and hoping he can cause confusion. In fairness, this approach has got him this far (but it would have never worked without the complicity of congressional Republicans, the RNC, and Fox News). Of course, talking won’t help if he dies.

      “We’ve worked with our infectious-disease experts to make some recommendations for how to keep everything safe down at the White House,” Trump’s doctor Sean Conley said after describing the president’s condition as improving, though he said Trump was “not out of the woods yet.

      (emphasis added)

      If the Dr. Conley warned Trump—and by this quote it seems like it has—Trump will only have himself to blame if his condition worsens, and/or dies. Idiocy–that’s risking the lives of others and probably extending the pandemic.

      Trump spent Sunday and Monday discussing his campaign, the polls, advertising in key states and what Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is doing, according to people who spoke to the president. He began discussing with officials Sunday when he could return to the campaign trail — and how.

      “Will be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!! The Fake News only shows the Fake Polls,” he tweeted Monday afternoon shortly before leaving the hospital.

      John Bolton, his former National Security Adviser, and others have said that Trump puts his re-election and his family’s well-being over the interests of the nation. To me, the example above is further proof. And he’s not only putting his re-election over the nation’s interests, but the people who work for him in the White House. To say this is madness might be the literal truth.

      Here’s what Trump tweeted:

      Again, idiotic and irresponsible, but one other thought: What if his conditions really worsens? For normal people, that would make them look like an idiot. The thing with Trump is that he does so many things that are idiotic, scandalous and immoral that it’s easy to forget about them. (Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers just seemed to disappear.) It’s unreal.

      Someone posted a James Baldwin quote that seems apropos: “People who imagine that history flatters them are impaled on their history like a butterfly on a pin and become incapable of seeing or changing themselves, or the world.”

      Edit

      Counting your chickens before they hatch is still foolish even if you’re fortunate to end up with chickens.

      Edit

      Six years on this date, Trump tweeted the following:

      For future generations, we will have to explain the phrase, “There’s a tweet for everything,” and they will marvel at the extent to which this statement is true. Hopefully, someone by then, will explain what this all means.

      10/6/2020

    3. When did Trump last test negative? The WH isn’t saying.

      Thread

      The WH didn’t contact anyone, including Gold Star families, who were at events with POTUS and other people who may have been infected. Blatant disregard for people’s lives.

      Also, the virus possibly spreading at the Rose Garden event for Amy Coney Barrett is a huge plot twist. An even bigger plot twist: A Doctor on CNN suggested that Trump could be patient zero.

    4. Democrats rip Trump for suggesting Gold Star families could have given him Covid-19 from Politico

      I don’t trust headlines, but the it’s basically accurate. The best you can say is that this is some very weak attempt to he cares about the military so much that he’s willing to risk his health for it. For example, when they approach him they want to speak about their children, and he says he doesn’t have the heart to turn them away. In spite of this, he’s still suggesting he got the virus from one of these families, which, any way you slice it, is gauche.

      There are ways a competent administration could handle this situation–e.g., require everyone to wear masks, hold the event outdoors, etc.

    5. Covid-19 seems to be spreading with people close to the VP

      Edit

  4. A metaphorical wall between the White House and DOJ/FBI

    (Note: I’m pretty sure I have a post on this topic, but I can’t find it now.)

    While the POTUS really oversees the DOJ and FBI, there’s a huge danger here. How do you prevent the POTUS from abusing his power, using the DOJ and FBI to protect the POTUS, politically or even legally (if the POTUS commits crimes), as well as going after his political enemies? In our system, a series of norms that the White House and DOJ/FBI adhere to in order to create a “wall” between the two. It’s very tricky because the POTUS still oversees and create priorities for them. For the system to work, the POTUS, AG and FBI director have to respect this wall and refrain from abuse of power. Trump and Barr have essentially broken the wall. Here’s a recent example:

    1. I found the original post (8/2018) on this, and I’m going to re-post it here–with a new post at the end.

      Important thread explaining the complex relationship between the POTUS and DOJ/FBI, and how Trump is violating important norms, and why that matters. Recommended.

      Trump tweets today:

      He’s the POTUS–he should be able to get this information, and he could give it to DOJ. One could say that this would be interfering in the investigation, but his tweets already do that. People got mad at Bill Clinton being seen talking to Loretta Lynch, the then AG under Obama, because it created impression that he was influence investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. We don’t know what they even said, and Bill Clinton was not the POTUS at the time. Still, this was not insignificant Compare this to what Trump has been saying (e.g., mentioning Russia investigation for firing Comey and revoking security clearance for John Brennan).

      9/3/2018

      Trump seems to be complaining that Sessions and the DOJ has hurt Republicans politically, implying that political considerations should trump legal ones. I’m pretty sure that some Americans will agree with Trump on this, and that makes me sad.

      12/21/2018

      Trump was frustrated, the sources said, that prosecutors Matt Whitaker oversees filed charges that made Trump look bad. None of the sources suggested that the President directed Whitaker to stop the investigation, but rather lashed out at what he felt was an unfair situation.

      and

      Over a week later, Trump again voiced his anger at Whitaker after prosecutors in Manhattan officially implicated the President in a hush-money scheme to buy the silence of women around the 2016 campaign — something Trump fiercely maintains isn’t an illegal campaign contribution. Pointing to articles he said supported his position, Trump pressed Whitaker on why more wasn’t being done to control prosecutors in New York who brought the charges in the first place, suggesting they were going rogue.

      The previously unreported discussions between Trump and Whitaker described by multiple sources familiar with the matter underscore the extent to which the President firmly believes the attorney general of the United States should serve as his personal protector.

      (emphasis added)

      Congress should call Whitaker and anyone else present and question about what was said. If Trump did these things–and you add them his comments about Sessions (and Holder), asking for loyalty; firing Comey, etc.–Congress needs to do something. If a Democratic POTUS did this, a GOP Congress would be looking to impeach, and I think I would sympathize with them.

      3/9/2019

      10/9/2020

      Trump, lagging in polls, pressures Justice Dept. to target Democrats and criticizes Barr from WaPo

      President Trump publicly pressured the Justice Department on Friday to move against his political adversaries and complained that Attorney General William P. Barr is not doing enough to deliver results of a probe into how the Obama administration investigated possible collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

      The delayed report is “a disgrace,” and Trump’s 2016 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, should be jailed, Trump said in a rambling radio interview, one day after he argued on Twitter that his current Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, is a criminal who should be barred from running.

      One main difference is in the level of anger being leveled at Barr,…

      “Unless Bill Barr indicts these people for crimes, the greatest political crime in the history of our country, then we’re going to get little satisfaction unless I win and we’ll just have to go, because I won’t forget it,” Trump said during an interview with Fox Business on Thursday.

      Trump’s also using the Secretary of State to dig up political dirt on…Hilary Clinton:

      The same day, Trump said he was also disappointed in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for not getting more of Clinton’s old State Department emails released publicly. On Friday, Pompeo told Fox News he is working to do so before the Nov. 3 election.

      “We’ve got the emails, we’re getting them out, we’re going to get all the information out so the American people can see it,” Pompeo said.

      On Thursday, he called for Obama and Biden to be indicted and lumped several adversaries and conspiracy theories together in a string of complaints on Twitter.

      “Wow!!! NOW DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS, THE BIGGEST OF ALL POLITICAL SCANDALS (IN HISTORY)!!! BIDEN, OBAMA AND CROOKED HILLARY LED THIS TREASONOUS PLOT!!! BIDEN SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED TO RUN — GOT CAUGHT!!!” he wrote in one post.

      The mad king demands that his minions arrests his political opponents. And the congressional GOP, with their silence, gives tacit approval.

  5. I find this tweet utterly remarkable. Has Marco Rubio endorsed Biden/Harris?

    It would be remarkable if this signifies Rubio’s support for Biden. It would be equally remarkable if he has more confidence in Trump having the nuclear codes than Biden. If this is true, this one tweet proves that Rubio is completely unfit to be a U.S. Senator in my view.

    Or is he referring to Harris and Pence? Still, Pence is a guy that turned a blind eye to all the horrors committed by Trump. Yep, still completely unfit.

    Also, I think Swift is being sarcastic.

  6. The story below is why I take seriously Trump’s “stand back and stand by” comment about the Proud Boys.

    Feds say they thwarted militia plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer from The Detroit News.

    The FBI says it thwarted what it described as a plot to violently overthrow the government and kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and federal prosecutors are expected to discuss the alleged conspiracy later Thursday.

    The alleged plot involved reaching out to members of a Michigan militia, according to a federal affidavit filed Thursday.

    The threat doesn’t seem specific to Michigan:

    In June, Croft, Fox and 13 others from multiple states held a meeting in Dublin, Ohio, near Columbus, according to the government.

    (emphasis added)

    I forgot about the armed group showing up at the Michigan state capitol in April of this year:

    Also, Trump tweeting “Liberate, Michigan.”

    He might have tweeted this about other states as well, and if I’m not mistaken, this was soon after he tried to push the responsibility of handling on the virus on the governors. In other words, he deferred to them, and then when groups protested lockdowns, he seemed to encourage those groups.

    I believe this is the Michigan GOP majority leader in the state legislature:

    Kudos to him. It’s critical that Republicans condemn such actions.

    1. Besides Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and refusal to unequivocally condemn racism, here’s another reason Govenor Whitmer criticism of Trump is justified.

      10/17/2020

      Trump’s rhetoric not just impacting governors it seems:

  7. Somehow a vote against Mr. Trump has become synonymous with not only being a “bad Catholic” but ultimately, being complicit in murder….Still, the hardline message from so many whom I love dearly was clear: Real Catholics vote Trump.

    (Putting this here to read later.)

  8. October surprise involving military action or an attack on U.S. soil or forces

    That’s one possibility that could help Trump, and I am concerned he would act or provoke a response. For example,

    On a side note, I worry about the number of Americans who would find this talk appealing. I would hope it’s small, but I fear it is big enough to make me uncomfortable.

  9. The only GOP principle that has proven resilient in the Trump presidency is tax cuts. I interpret this to mean that one critical base of political support (read: source of power) are the wealthy–because the wealthy/corporations want to protect their money. I’d guess the latest pushback comes from wealthy donors saying, “That’s too much!”

    If all of this is correct, this means all those things Sen. Schatz mentioned are acceptable to Republicans as long as the protect the wealth of the rich.

  10. History of conservative making the distinction between a republic from a democracy as a way to subvert popular policies

    Sen. Mike Lee tweeted a few remarks the other day about how “democracy is not the point.” The thread below by a Cornell historian (I checked) explains the history behind remarks like this, which is something I wasn’t aware of.

    Nicole Hemmer, another historian, talks about this subject in an On the Media interview. (I haven’t listened to this yet.)

    Vox has a piece on this (which I also haven’t read yet).

  11. The Year of Living Uncertainly from J.M. Berger in theAtlantic.

    How much engagement does it take to make an alternative fact credible? One hundred thousand retweets? Fifty thousand likes? Ten thousand shares? These numbers were within reach for virtually everyone, and even they are overkill. For some people, seeing 100, 50, or 20 is enough. In a small group—a chat room or a Telegram channel—affirmation from 10 people might be sufficient to tilt someone toward violence, because consensus is more powerful when it is found among others you trust. We listen most closely to chat members, friends, family, and colleagues. We value most dearly the opinions of people from the same neighborhood, or from the same religion, or from the same race.

  12. In the moment of truth, Republicans like Romney are failing

    I’ll explain why after his tweet:

    There’s truth to this tweet, but both sides are not the problem. Trump and his enablers are the bigger problem, and if Romney doesn’t act soon, he’ll fall into the enabler category. If Romney was railing against Trump every time Trump undermined the legitimacy of the election, if he vigorously pushed to shore up security for our elections, ensuring the USPS was properly functioning; if he hammered Trump for not committing to accepting the election results and a peaceful transfer of power; if he pushed to find out who Trump owes $400 million–if he did all this AND THEN posted the tweet above, I’d have no problem with the tweet. But without doing the the type of things I list above, he’s failing our country, he’s failing as a leader, and he’s ultimately standing by and enabling Trump.

    10/16/2020

    When America has an illiberal POTUS, sliding into authoritarianism, Senator Romney took at “both sides” approach:

  13. Amy Coney Barrett Senate Hearing

    On some level I can understand her reasoning–she doesn’t want to get entangled in politics because this has been a political issue….Actually, I have a hard time buying this, because Sen. Booker, before this question, asks her if she condemns white supremacy. She quickly answers, “Yes.” It seems to me she could have invoked the same rationale there, but she didn’t. Sen. Booker rephrases the his question that a POTUS should be committed unequivocally and resolutely to the peaceful transfer of power. Her answer seems to be that because of Americans accepting election results and the genius of the Constitution, the U.S. has been fortunate to avoid violent transfers for power. That’s not a great answer. If I give her the benefit of the doubt, I think she’s being too circumspect. She should correct herself and say, like she did about white supremacy, that a POTUS should make the commitment to a peaceful transfer of power.

    You can see more of the clip starting about the 4:00 minute mark:

    1. This feels reminiscent of something that could have came out of a scene from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D) basically explains the influence of dark money, which are huge sums of money coming from anonymous donors, that are behind many of the judicial nominees, in lower and higher courts. It may be slow, but I think it picks up steam, feeling almost like a police procedural, where the facts accumulate, pointing to certain conclusions. Sen. Whitehouse had my total attention by the end. It’s 30 minutes, and I don’t think I understand everything, but it is worth watching.

      1. Comments today from Senator Whitehouse:

        I think what Senator Whitehouse is saying is really important to consider. At the same time, I have some ambivalence as well, as he’s suggesting that the judges themselves are corrupt, as wealthy individuals and corporations are almost like puppetmasters, choosing the judges and getting them positions to do their bidding. At least, that’s the overall impression that’s created, and that undermines the credibility of the court. To me, politicians have to be really. really careful publicly expressing views that do this. Their evidence better be really strong. The juries still out for me on this issue (no pun intended).

        Also, This NYT op-ed, by an author of a book on the Koch brothers, provides a potential reason judges are so important to Republicans.

        Judge Barrett’s nomination is the latest battleground in his decades-long war to reshape American society in a way that ensures that corporations can operate with untrammeled freedom. It may be a pivotal one.

        (emphasis added)

        In that 1974 speech, he recommended a strategy of “strategically planned litigation” to test the regulatory authority of government agencies. Such lawsuits could make their way to the Supreme Court, where justices could set precedent. In the 1990s, he focused on lower-level judges, funding a legal institute that paid for judges to attend junkets at a Utah ski resort and Florida beachfront properties; the judges attended seminars on the importance of market forces in society and were warned against consideration of “junk science” — like specific methods to measure the effects of pollution — that plaintiffs used to prove corporate malfeasance.

        The closest the Supreme Court has come to reflecting Mr. Koch’s vision for regulation is the “Lochner era” of the early 20th century, during which an activist court struck down a wide range of federal regulations on business, turning the country into a free market free-fire zone.

        A Supreme Court that has swung hard to the right could reverse earlier decisions and issue new ones that create something like a new Lochner era. In the world of corporate law, the lodestar legal case is Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council. This case, decided in 1984, created an important legal precedent called “Chevron deference.” It holds that courts should generally defer to an agency’s interpretation of a law enacted by Congress when the law is ambiguous (provided that the agency interpretation is reasonable). This helps empower agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency to operate complex regulatory regimes, even if some details are not specifically detailed in the law. The current Supreme Court has signaled a willingness to reconsider this precedent, a move that could dramatically weaken federal regulatory agencies.

        10/15/2020

        Interview with Sen. Whitehouse

        Dark money on the court

    2. What the Rush to Confirm Amy Coney Barrett Is Really About from theAtlantic

      With the NYT op-ed and Senator Whitehouse’s talks above, this piece really makes clear to me the significance of appointing judges for Republicans. I feel some regret I never understood this earlier. Recommended.

      Every young conservative judge that the GOP has stacked onto the federal courts amounts to a sandbag against that rising demographic wave. Trump’s nominations to the Supreme Court of Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Barrett—whom a slim majority of Republican senators appears determined to seat by Election Day—represent the capstone of that strategy. As the nation’s growing racial and religious diversity limits the GOP’s prospects, filling the courts with conservatives constitutes what the Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz calls “the right-wing firewall” against a country evolving electorally away from the party.

      Today, according to Drutman’s figures, the 47 Democratic senators represent almost 169 million people, while the 53 Republican senators represent about 158 million. Measured by votes, the disparity is even more glaring: The current Democratic senators won about 14 million more votes (69 million) than the Republican incumbents (55 million), according to calculations by Molly Reynolds, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. The result is a Republican Supreme Court majority that, to an unprecedented extent, embodies minority rule. Assuming Barrett is confirmed, five of the six sitting Republican justices will have been appointed by GOP presidents who initially lost the popular vote. (George W. Bush, like Trump, won the Electoral College and lost the popular vote in his first election.) And all three of Trump’s nominees will have been confirmed by senators who represented less than half of the American public. The same is true for Thomas, who was nominated by George H. W. Bush.

      Let me say one thing. There is a underlying and fundamental premise behind the political ideology of Liberals and Conservatives. That underlying premise is that both sides have a political ideology that will make indivdiuals and the broader society a better place–fairer, healthier, safer, economically thriving, etc.–not just for a select group, but for the everyone. That’s the goal.

      But my sense is that in my lifetime, this was not the case for the Republican party. Instead, the conservative ideology was basically a sham, a kind of respectable veneer hiding more base motives–specifically, protecting the money of the wealthy individuals and corporations and protecting the power of majority groups–i.e., whites, Christians, and/or males.

      And what I’ve learned during the Trump regime is the lengths they go through to achieve this–namely, they were willing to embrace or allow authoritarianism. In America, I think this has to be one of the most sacrilegious things one could do in a secular society.

    3. Thread from Rich Hasen, a UC Irvine law professor whose expertise is on election law regarding Leonard Leo, one of the key conservatives, facilitating the conservative judge pipeline.

      I’ve been calling on my conservative friends to condemn Leonard Leo, one of the key players in building the Federalist Society and promoting Trump’s judges to the federal courts, for backing a group trying to suppress the vote. But now there’s evidence of Leo’s self-dealing. /1
      Here’s the piece @Dahlialithwick and I wrote @Slate in May on how same people pushing conservative judges for the court were spawning more voter fraud myths through the “Honest Elections Project” backed by Leo to defend laws making it harder to vote. /2
      Then @Dahlialithwick and I followed up in this @Slate piece showing same people providing financial backing to get three former Bush lawyers from Bush v. Gore on Supreme Court are pushing legal theories going to SCOTUS aimed at suppressing the vote. /3
      Leo’s activities with Honest Elections Project are despicable. His group is advancing crackpot theories which could be used to try to get the courts, which he helped to stack with conservatives, to accept sham voter fraud arguments which could affect voting outcomes. /4
      And now comes this expose from @CREWcrew @RobertMaguire_ which shows that in addition to Leo’s despicable political conduct, it looks like Leo and a lot of people are getting rich while obscuring that through a series of organizations and corporations. /5
      Some of my conservative friends have condemned others, like Kris Kobach, for advancing false, unsupported and dangerous theories of massive voter fraud used to try to suppress the vote and sway elections. But crickets about Leo, even after I’ve called it to their attention. /6
      Why the silence? I hope it is not because Leo runs a very powerful network that puts conservatives on courts and in high positions, and it is fear of what opportunities might disappear if Leo were called out.
      But his work should be condemned by all principled conservatives. 7/7
      P.S. Don’t be telling me Leo has “stepped away” from @FedSoc. So what? He’s created this network and has unparalleled influence in this world, making his advancing spurious voter fraud arguments in courts stacked with his judges particularly dangerous. 8/7
      OK, so here’s tweet 9/7. I took people at their word when they said that Leo had “stepped away” from the Federalist Society. But he’s still listed here as their co-chairman!

    4. On the cusp of confirming Amy Coney Barrett

      With regard to confirming Barrett, I heard someone say that the Republicans have done a good job of radicalizing moderates like himself–i.e., pushing them to expand the courts. I think that applies to me as well. Listen to McConnell:

      I do not like the idea of expanding the courts as a response to a new conservative majority on the SCOTUS. But I’d like to hear principled conservatives explain how Democrats should respond. If it’s accept it, explain to me why they should, given that the Republicans brazenly and egregiously violated the principle for not considering the confirmation of Merrick Garland–who would have a been a more moderate replacement for Justice Scalia–while, Barrett is a highly conservative appointment for the liberal RBG.
      I’d prefer an alternative to expanding the courts, but if reasonable one can’t be offered, I’m leaning towards expanding the SC.

      Edit

  14. Congressional Republicans are going to find ways to say they never really liked or supported Trump

    That’s what Amanda Carpenter, a conservative commentator predicts, and I agree with her. If you don’t know, a tape of Sen. Sasse criticizing Trump “somehow” got to the press. I wonder how many other creative ways we’ll see this type of message get out.

    By the way, I totally agree with her, particularly the disgust. There’s actually still time for congressional Republicans to redeem themselves. But this type of leaked message isn’t going to cut it. They’re going to have to speak and act more forcefully to push back and stop Trump’s attack on democracy. If not, they should be shunned and scorned by society.

    10/16/2020

    A second this:

  15. Trump explains why he attacks the press

    I’m going to sound crazy for saying this, but I’d really like to know Trump’s conversations with Putin or other dictators and oligarch over the years–to see he got a lot of his approach to governing from them. It would not surprise me if this was the case.

    In any event, it’s worth saying that Trump’s approach is so far outside of what a normal president would do–e.g., call the press the enemy of the people.

  16. This short endorsement for Joe Biden by Mel Brooks, of all people, is kind of remarkable on several levels.

    On the pandemic, Trump “hasn’t done a damn thing about it.”
    Joe likes facts. Joe likes science.

    I’m not sure future generations will believe this–that Trump doesn’t like facts, and doesn’t like or depend on science.

    I really think if Trump urged Americans to wear masks in the summer, lives would have been saved and we’d likely have been in a much better position now.

  17. A message regarding the next two weeks….check that, the next two or three months.

    Articles that provide “seat belts:”

    How to Survive Election Night by NATHANIEL PERSILY and CHARLES STEWART III, law and poli-sci professors, respectively, from Stanford, writing in Slate. (Highly recommended by Brendan Nyhan, a Dartmouth professor I follow.)

    The Election is in Danger, Prepare Now by Anne Applebaum in theAtlantic

    And a third article below, which suggests some ideas that seem jarringly radical to me (e.g., preparing to organize a general strike), but should be considered in the event worse case scenarios occur (e.g., Trump attempts to steal the election).

    Trump may try to steal the election. We need to start preparing for that now by Ashley Dawson, a post-colonial studies professor at CUNY, writing in The Guardian

    10/24/2020

    (Note: I haven’t read this, yet.)

  18. Trump walks out of a 60 Minutes interview a few days ago

    I believe he claimed it was unfair, and then suggested he would release an unedited version to show this. I believe the he released all or part of this today. Here’s an exchange before the start of the interview:

    I’m not sure how he thinks this vindicates him. For a guy who brags about having a “big brain,” and being a “stable genius,” and for supporters to call liberals “snowflakes,” Trump does not come out looking good in this.

    I agree with someone who said the ratings on this interview is going to be through the roof.

    Edit

    Interesting.

    One of Trump’s tweets before releasing the video:

  19. Trump issues sweeping order for tens of thousands of career federal employees to lose civil service protections from WaPo

    President Trump this week fired his biggest broadside yet against the federal bureaucracy by issuing an executive order that would remove job security from an estimated tens of thousands of civil servants and dramatically remake the government.

    The directive, issued late Wednesday, strips long-held civil service protections from employees whose work involves policymaking, allowing them to be dismissed with little cause or recourse, much like the political appointees who come and go with each administration.

    Federal scientists, attorneys, regulators, public health experts and many others in senior roles would lose rights to due process and in some cases, union representation, at agencies across the government.

    Under a competent and trustworthy president I think this would be a bad idea. When I interviewed Governor Cayetano, he was pushing for civil service reform, which boiled down to making it easier to fire government workers, but when I asked if how he would be able to ensure that workers would be evaluated accurately and treated fairly, he had no answers. The implication was that a) the administrators would know, and b) you could trust them. Even if you could trust administrators, I’m highly skeptical about the former.

    But with Trump, he has a record of firing people if they don’t make him happy–which often means telling him what he wants to hear or doing his bidding, even if it’s inappropriate. In that context, I see this as another authoritarian move. Will the public care? I hope so.

  20. Trump is a big baby.

    I debated using the words “weak” and “immature,” but the “big baby” seems to more accurately capture his behavior in the clip below.

    He needs to leave the “kitchen” because he can’t handle the heat–and this is not even high heat in my view, and he’s brought the heat upon himself.

    1. …and a (horrible) con man

      Trump thinks 60 minutes, and the people that watch 60 Minutes are incredibly dumb.

      This reminds me of the press conference Trump held where he put up stacks of paper and had his lawyers say he divested his business. (He didn’t.) I’m not sure if it was in this conference, but Trump also said he was turning over his business to his sons, and that he woudln’t talk to them–I guess as a way to reassure the public that there would be no conflict of interest with his decisions a president.

  21. How I hope these tweets are true!

    If you told me that the majority of voters had accurate news sources, and put in an adequate amount of time consuming it, I would feel confident that large numbers would come to conclusion that Trump is totally unreliable and untrustworthy, and not be confused about who to believe. I’d feel a little better about the election in this case. But I don’t have a good sense of how many people this applies to so I’m a bit nervous.

    On another note, I think I’ve said before that I wished the press would stop focusing so much on specific lies and make the case to show for Trump’s extreme dishonesty–how this makes it impossible to give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s being truthful and acting in good faith. To me, this is a much, much bigger story that each individual lie that he tells.

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