When Trump tells you he’s an authoritarian, believe him

“Perhaps the clearest sign came in a speech on Veterans Day where he vowed to “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections.” Calling one’s opponents subhuman and vowing aggressive action against them is a hallmark of classical fascist rhetoric, so much so that the Washington Post’s headline — on a news article, not an opinion piece — described it as “echoing dictators Hitler [and] Mussolini.”
They’re not wrong: Anyone familiar with Nazi propaganda can tell you that it commonly dehumanized Jews by describing us as rats or diseases. Trump has used such language more than once: Just last month, he claimed immigrants were “poisoning the blood of our country.”

This incendiary language is backed by an incendiary policy agenda. Trump and his team have a series of proposals to crack down on dissent, including by remaking the Justice Department into a tool for jailing his enemies and sending troops to suppress protests. They aim to launch mass anti-immigrant raids and detain the people he rounds up in camps. They have extensive plans to replace as many as 50,000 career civil servants with ideologues and toadies, putting people ready and willing to undermine the rule of law in key positions to act on Trump’s dubious orders.

Given Trump’s track record, we should take these threats seriously. Let’s not forget that many thought it was unthinkable that Trump would attempt a kind of coup after the 2020 election. We now know that’s exactly what happened, up to and including inciting an actual riot on January 6.”


Biden Lacks the Best Weapon Other Incumbents Have Had

“What can Biden tell the electorate about Trump that they do not already know? That he’s a serial liar? That he stands indicted in a series of criminal cases? That he commits business fraud the way others inhale and exhale? That he has spent a lifetime stiffing employees, contractors, lawyers? That he paid off a porn actress? That he recklessly mishandled sensitive government documents? All of this is a matter of public record, let alone the pesky detail of his desperate efforts to retain power by essentially overthrowing his own government.
Again, if The New York Times polling is correct, a plurality of American voters have absorbed all this and prefer him to the president. They have, as the financial world says, “priced” Trump’s behavior into their choice and as of now, have not considered the behavior disqualifying.

In some sense, this has been true for eight years, certainly in the Republican Party. The fact that four of the previous five GOP presidential nominees refused to endorse him in 2016 did not make a difference — Trump received a bigger share of Republican votes than Romney did. The fact that so many of Trump’s own key appointees — secretary of Defense, secretary of State, attorney general, national security adviser — all regard him as a threat to our political system has made no difference to Trump’s commanding lead for the GOP nomination.

So when a separate New York Times poll shows that a criminal conviction would significantly damage Trump, take that with a grain or a handful of salt. For eight years, he has survived conduct that would have swept a politician into oblivion.

It is true that the public’s judgment may turn as the prospect of a second Trump administration draws closer; it may be that the stories of what Trump plans for a second term — retribution against his political opponents, the obliteration of the guardrails that restrained his worst impulses, the staffing of a government with toadies who when asked to jump, will ask, “How high, sir?” — will change enough minds to give Biden (assuming he’s on the ballot) a second term.

It’s also true, however, that the task this unpopular president faces is a whole lot tougher than what the last successful incumbent presidents faced. And if a troubled incumbent can’t define an opponent effectively? Well, just ask Jimmy Carter or Gerald Ford or George H.W. Bush what happened.”


‘I’ve prayed for each of you’: How Mike Johnson led a campaign of election denial

““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.”


Donald Trump Is a Man Without a Past

“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,””


Trump’s Abortion Triangulation Makes Political Sense but Belies His ‘Pro-Life’ Pose

“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 steamrolls anti-abortion groups

“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.”


Trump’s become a runaway train in the GOP primary. Here’s why.

“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.”


America’s Trumpiest court just put itself in charge of nuclear safety

“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.”


Opinion | If You Want the Public’s Trust, Broadcast the Trump Trials

“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.”


Tucker Carlson’s Sycophantic Interview With Trump Illustrates the Advantages of Skipping the Debates

“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.”