““This is a very weighty decision. All of us have prayed for God’s discernment. I know I’ve prayed for each of you individually,” Johnson said at the meeting, according to a record of his comments obtained by POLITICO, before urging his fellow Republicans to join him in opposing the results.
A review of the chaotic weeks between Trump’s defeat at the polls on Nov. 3, 2020, and the Jan. 6 Capitol attack shows that Johnson led the way in shaping legal arguments that became gospel among GOP lawmakers who sought to derail Biden’s path to the White House — even after all but the most extreme options had elapsed.
As Trump’s legal challenges faltered, Johnson consistently spread a singular message: It’s not over yet. And when Texas filed a last-ditch lawsuit against four states on Dec. 8, 2020, seeking to invalidate their presidential election results and throw out millions of ballots, Johnson quickly revealed he would be helming an effort to support it with a brief signed by members of Congress.
Throughout that period, Johnson was routinely in touch with Trump, even more so than many of his more recognizable colleagues.
Some of Johnson’s vocal opponents at the Jan. 5, 2021, closed-door meeting were Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who warned Johnson’s plan would lead to a constitutional and political catastrophe.
“Let us not turn the last firewall for liberty we have remaining on its head in a bit of populist rage for political expediency,” Roy said at the time, according to the record.
Nearly three years later, on Wednesday afternoon, Roy and Bacon cast two of the unanimous House GOP votes to make Johnson the next speaker.”
“Johnson then ran through a litany of allegations of election law changes in key states that he said were unconstitutional — and then he lent credence to a discredited claim of election fraud: “The allegation about these voting machines, some of them being rigged with the software by Dominion — look, there’s a lot of merit to that.”
In the same interview, Johnson — who as speaker will be privy to the nation’s most sensitive intelligence secrets — returned to the Dominion matter. He embraced the false description of Dominion machines as “a software system that is used all around the country that is suspect because it came from Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.”
When the hosts pressed Johnson on Trump’s losses in court, the Louisianan noted that there were still a dozen suits pending but it was an “uphill climb.” Later that day, House Republicans elected Johnson as the vice chair of the GOP conference.
When Johnson joined the effort to support Texas’ fight at the Supreme Court, he said Trump had been in touch with him yet again.
“President Trump called me this morning to let me know how much he appreciates the amicus brief we are filing on behalf of Members of Congress,” Johnson tweeted the next day.”
“No matter what happens in the courtroom in Manhattan in the coming days, weeks and months, no matter what is revealed, no matter the evidence or even the outcome, say longtime Trump watchers, former Trump employees, Republican strategists and operatives and experts on political rhetoric and autocratic means, his supporters at this point don’t care who he was or was not. “It’s irrelevant to who he is now and what he’s become,” Trump biographer Tim O’Brien told me.
“Trump’s rise in the American imagination rested on his appeal as an entrepreneurial guru and carnival barker. He has long since transitioned away from that role with his most loyal followers,” O’Brien wrote in his column for Bloomberg on Monday. The far more pertinent persona is the one he’s crafted since the summer of 2015. “He is an era-defining politician now, and he oversees a cult that cares little about his business foibles or setbacks …” Trump, after all, is “not an ex-president — he’s a right-wing, nativist, revolutionary leader,” as presidential historian Doug Brinkley once put it. “He has a movement that is massive with global implications …””
“Trump could be fined $250 million. He could lose Trump Tower, the singular symbol of the image he sought from the start to convey. For most people, of course, unsavory aspects of their past can limit their prospects for the future. Not for Trump. Never have. He is, in the memorable words of an intimate, “the most present human being I ever met.” So the scenes this week are in some sense simply an extension of a time-tested Trump tactic and truth. He makes the past not matter.”
“Last week, in a memo written by Club for Growth president David McIntosh to a Club-linked PAC called Win it Back, the takeaway was stark: Trump’s supporters do not care what he did or what he said before. They like him still. They like him now. “It is amazing,” McIntosh told me in a text. “All attempts to undermine his conservative credentials on specific issues were ineffective,” the memo said. “Even when you show video to Republican primary voters with complete context of President Trump saying something otherwise objectionable to primary voters, they find a way to rationalize and dismiss it.”
“What I saw there that really stood out to me was that people dismissed any negative information about Donald Trump as just another attack on Donald Trump,””
“Before he ran for president, Donald Trump described himself as “pro-choice.” But when he was seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, he promised to appoint “pro-life” Supreme Court justices. “I am pro-life,” he declared in his October 2016 debate with Hillary Clinton. He said Roe v. Wade would be overturned “automatically” if he were elected thanks to the justices he would choose, meaning that the issue of abortion regulation would “go back to the individual states.”
After that prediction came to pass last year, Trump called it “the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation.” He bragged that the Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was “only made possible because I delivered everything as promised, including nominating and getting three highly respected and strong Constitutionalists confirmed to the United States Supreme Court.” But now that Dobbs has shifted public opinion and political energy toward abortion rights, Trump is trying to position himself as a moderate on the issue.
On NBC’s Meet the Press last Sunday, host Kristen Welker asked Trump if he would “sign federal legislation that would ban abortion at 15 weeks.” That cutoff would allow the vast majority of abortions—more than 93 percent, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But Trump still was reluctant to endorse the idea.
“No, no,” he replied. “Let me just tell you what I’d do. I’m going to come together with all groups, and we’re going to have something that’s acceptable. Right now, to my way of thinking, the Democrats are the radicals, because [they would allow abortion] after four and five and six months.”
As that response makes clear, Trump’s objection is not based on federalist principles. Last year, he told Fox News that Dobbs “brings everything back to the states, where it has always belonged.” Now he is saying that, as president, he would hammer out “something that’s acceptable,” meaning he thinks the federal government does have a role in determining when and under what circumstances women may terminate their pregnancies.”
“Trump’s attempt to have it both ways on the fraught issue — calling himself “the most pro-life president ever” and taking credit for the fall of Roe v. Wade while also shunning the priorities of the anti-abortion groups that helped elect him in 2016 — has exposed those groups’ struggle for relevance in a lopsided primary and highlighted ongoing divisions inside the movement.”
“They’re more conservative than other Republicans. More likely to be men. Less likely to have graduated from college.
And they’re way more confident they’ve made up their minds, even though the first primary or caucus is still four months away.
That’s the coalition former President Donald Trump has assembled in asserting his dominance over the Republican presidential primary.”
“Back in 2016, Trump ran away with the Republican nomination despite a crowded field of candidates, many of whom had real religious bona fides. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of a Southern Baptist Church in Houston, often quoted scripture during his stump speech. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted a Bible verse a day. Yet, despite lack of any religious credibility, Trump won half of the votes of Republicans who attended religious services weekly in 2016, while Cruz only got only 30 percent of their votes and Rubio earned 11 percent.
That was significant, but it would have meant little had he not earned huge support from Republicans who weren’t religious. During the nomination process, two in five Republicans described their religious attendance as “seldom” or “never” according to data from the VOTER Survey, a longitudinal study sponsored by the Democracy Fund that repeatedly interviews thousands of Americans. Among those who said that they never attended religious services, two-thirds were Trump voters in the 2016 Republican primary. Cruz, by contrast, managed just 16 percent of this group. Among those who described their attendance as “seldom,” Trump secured 57 percent of the vote while Cruz only tallied 22 percent.”
“In 2016, 39 percent of all Republican voters attended church less than once a year. In comparison, just 36 percent said that they attended religious services at least once a week.”
“In 2008, 44 percent of Republicans reported that they were in church at least once per week. By 2022, that number had slipped to just 35 percent. In comparison, the share of Democrats who attended weekly only declined five percentage points (23 percent to 18 percent) during the same time period.”
“Judge James Ho is not a nuclear scientist, an expert in energy policy, an atomic engineer, or anyone else with any specialized knowledge whatsoever on how to store and dispose of nuclear waste.
Nevertheless, Ho and two of his far-right colleagues on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit just put themselves in charge of much of America’s nuclear safety regime — invalidating the power of actual nuclear policy regulators to decide how to deal with nuclear waste in the process.”
“U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan has scheduled former President Donald Trump’s federal criminal trial for his deliberate and systematic attempts to overturn the will of American voters for March 4. And if current rules remain, the American people will never see it. Instead, many will hear about it second-hand through siloed media ecosystems and from sources whose fidelity to the facts are tenuous at best.
Now is the time for this to change.”
” If ever there was a moment in American history that should prompt the federal courts to change their outdated policy, surely the prosecution of a former president for attempting to overturn the will of the voters would be it. The time has come for the federal court system to catch-up with the times — many state courts already broadcast live trial proceedings.”
“I suspect my former colleagues at the Justice Department are hesitant to depart from existing norms that date back to 1946 because they have been largely effective in keeping decorum in federal court rooms and protecting witnesses, jurors and judges.
But these are extraordinary times, and extraordinary times demand extraordinary transparency. At the least, the Justice Department should inform the Judicial Conference that it does not oppose efforts to broadcast Trump’s trials live.
The bright light of transparency into both of Trump’s federal cases would communicate an unfiltered and unbiased accounting of trial events, and the strong evidence the government has alleged in its indictments. Equally important, it would show Americans and the world what it means to pursue justice without regard to partisan politics.”
“Whatever you think of Donald Trump, we know what Carlson thinks, thanks to private communications that Dominion Voting Systems uncovered through discovery in its defamation lawsuit against Carlson’s former employer, which agreed to pay $788 million rather than defend its promotion of Trump’s stolen-election fantasy. “There isn’t really an upside to Trump,” Carlson said in a January 4, 2021, text message to his staff, describing “the last four years” as “a disaster.” Back then, Carlson was eager to be rid of Trump: “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait. I hate him passionately.” The day after the January 6, 2021, riot by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol, Carlson privately called him “a demonic force” and “a destroyer.”
But that was then. Carlson, like the GOP politicians whose phoniness he claims to despise, has adjusted to the reality that Trump remains stubbornly popular among Republicans. He is even willing to reinforce the election conspiracy theory that he publicly called unfounded and privately called a lie. Carlson’s current coziness with Trump was on vivid display Wednesday night, starting with the question of why the “far-and-away front-runner,” whose views are of such keen interest to voters, decided to skip the Republican debate in Milwaukee and any other similar forum in which he might have to defend those views or his record as president against competitors keen to make a dent in his commanding lead.
Trump’s answer was that felt no need to go through that ordeal, precisely because he is so far ahead. Why put up with “all these people screaming at me, shouting questions at me”—which Trump contradictorily claimed he “love[s] answering”—when he could sit down with an interviewer who is desperate to please him, especially in light of the criticism revealed in those embarrassing messages? Anyway, Trump said, he would probably get better ratings “using this crazy forum” than he would on Fox News, which televised the debate that he skipped. “I’m grateful that you did,” Carlson replied.”
“Trump said Biden “is worse mentally than he is physically,” as evidenced by the fact that he “can’t put two sentences together.” Trump, by contrast, can put many, many sentences together, but they do not necessarily make sense, bear any logical relationship to each other, or stand up to critical scrutiny. Fortunately for Trump, Carlson was offering none of that.”
“the best evidence typically points toward identity-based explanations: Racial and cultural conflicts are far, far more important than the kind of economic alienation Brooks wants to highlight. This is true not only in the United States but in other countries facing similar challenges from far-right populist movements — important comparison points that Brooks entirely leaves out.
Brooks’s column makes some important points, particularly about the flaws in the American economic model. But it’s one thing to point out those flaws, and another thing to posit that (as a matter of fact) they are behind the great divides in our politics — when in fact they are not.”
“A 2022 paper by two political scientists, Kristin Lunz Trujillo and Zack Crowley, examined this theory explicitly: testing a sense of political and cultural alienation (what they call “symbolic” concerns) versus a sense of economic deprivation in predicting rural voter support for Trump.
They found that “only the symbolic subdimensions of rural consciousness positively and significantly correlate with Trump support.” If anything, they found, rural voters who feel more economically deprived are less likely to vote for Trump than their peers.
Similarly, a 2020 paper found that Trump supporters in poorer areas tend to be the “locally affluent whites:” people whose incomes might not put them in the national one percent, but who are doing a fair sight better than others in the same zip code. Think plumbers and auto dealers, not laid-off factory workers.”
“Let me propose an alternative theory — one that aligns much better with the available evidence than the economic anxiety idea.
This story starts with the late 20th-century revolution in social values: the end of segregation, mass nonwhite immigration, feminist challenges to patriarchy, a decline in traditional Christianity, and the rise of the LGBTQ movement. This revolution has transformed America at fundamental levels: the kinds of people who hold positions of power, the ideas that command cultural respect, and even the kinds of food Americans eat and languages they speak in public.
For millions of Americans, these changes made them feel unmoored from their country— “strangers in their own land,” as the sociologist Arlie Hochschild put it. Whether because of pure bigotry or a more diffuse sense of cultural alienation from the mainstream, a large number of Americans came to believe that they are losing America. For historical reasons owing largely to the legacy of the civil rights movement, these voters became concentrated in the Republican party — forming at least a plurality of its primary electorate. The election of Barack Obama, a self-described “Black man with a funny name,” pushed their sense of social alienation to the breaking point.
This cultural anxiety created room for Trump, who rode this group’s collective resentments to control of the Republican party. It is not the only reason he won the presidency — in a close election like 2016, a million different things likely made the difference — but it is the most important reason why he has maintained a lock on the Republican party for the better part of a decade.
We know this, primarily, because social scientists have been testing the theory since 2016 — and comparing it with Brooks’s preferred explanations rooted in resentment at a rigged economic game. Again and again, the cultural theory has won out.”
“in 2018, a trio of scholars used survey data to compare explanations of Trump support based on racism, sexism, and a sense of economic alienation. The former two are far more powerful predictors than the latter, almost entirely explaining Trump’s surge in support among white non-college voters. “Controlling for racism and sexism effectively restores the education gap among whites to what it had been in every election since 2000,” they write.
A 2018 report from the Voter Study Group, authored by pollster Robert Griffin and political scientist John Sides, tested what they called the “prevailing narrative” of the 2016 election that “focused heavily on the economic concerns of [the white working class].” They found that typical methods of measuring economic distress were flawed and that more precise measurements show little effect on the 2016 outcome. “Instead,” they write, “attitudes about race and ethnicity were more strongly related to how people voted.”
A 2018 paper by Alan Abramowitz and Jennifer McCoy, two leading political scientists, tested correlations between white voters’ favorable views of Hillary Clinton and Trump and a battery of different variables. What they found, at this point, shouldn’t surprise you.
“After party identification, racial/ethnic resentment was by far the strongest predictor of relative ratings of Trump and Clinton — the higher the score on the racial/ethnic resentment scale, the more favorably white voters rated Trump relative to Clinton,” they write. “The impact of the racial/ethnic resentment scale was much stronger than that of any of the economic variables included in the analysis, including opinions about free trade deals and economic mobility.”
These are three studies from a single year. There are dozens of other papers, reports, and even entire books coming to similar conclusions. These studies don’t explain everything about Trump or Republican support — such as the party’s recent gains among Black and especially Latino voters — but they do an excellent job answering the question that Brooks poses in his column: Why does Trump maintain such a hard core of support despite everything that he’s done?”