Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #90 A Review and Analysis of Serpent’s Walk

Lis­ten now: One Seg­ment

This seg­ment ana­lyzes Ser­pen­t’s Walk, a Nazi tract pub­lished in 1991 and authored by one “Ran­dolph O. Calver­hall.” Pub­lished by Nation­al Van­guard Books, which also pub­lished The Turn­er Diaries, the book is pur­port­ed­ly a “nov­el” about a Nazi takeover of the Unit­ed States in the mid­dle of the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry. It is Mr. Emory’s con­sid­ered opin­ion that the book is far more than a nov­el — he feels that it is a blue­print for what is already going on and what is planned for the future. Mr. Emory feels that the book is extreme­ly impor­tant and that it should be stud­ied. The events por­trayed in it have a foun­da­tion in real­i­ty. In Ser­pen­t’s Walk, Hitler’s SS goes under­ground after World War II.

The SS then begin build­ing a huge cap­i­tal orga­ni­za­tion and buy­ing into U.S. indus­try, the opin­ion-form­ing media in par­tic­u­lar. (Just such an orga­ni­za­tion was put togeth­er! See Mar­tin Bor­mann: Nazi in Exile by Paul Man­ning. The book was pub­lished in 1981 by Lyle Stu­art Inc.) The SS then infil­trate the Unit­ed States Army and the U.S. gov­ern­ment in gen­er­al. At the end of the war, much of the Nazi intel­li­gence sys­tem was mar­ried to the Amer­i­can espi­onage estab­lish­ment, per­mit­ting just such infil­tra­tion.

After the Pres­i­dent and Vice-Pres­i­dent are killed in a bio­log­i­cal war­fare attack that uti­lizes genet­i­cal­ly-engi­neered virus­es (of osten­si­bly Russ­ian ori­gin), the Speak­er of the House (“Jonas Out­ram”) becomes Pres­i­dent, declares mar­tial law and invites the Nazis into a gov­ern­ing coali­tion, which then takes over the Unit­ed States. It is Mr. Emory’s opin­ion that the Jonas Out­ram char­ac­ter is based on Newt Gin­grich and that Gin­grich was recruit­ed to the Nazi phi­los­o­phy in Ger­many while his father was sta­tioned there with the Army.

Discussion

8 comments for “FTR #90 A Review and Analysis of Serpent’s Walk

  1. It’s offi­cial. Or at least as offi­cial as some­thing like this can be: Pres­i­dent Trump is open­ly declar­ing war on the 2020 elec­tion results and there­fore declared war on Amer­i­can Democ­ra­cy:

    Talk­ing Points Memo

    Trump Declares War On Amer­i­can Democ­ra­cy

    By Josh Koven­sky
    Novem­ber 5, 2020 7:27 p.m.

    In a last-minute press con­fer­ence Thurs­day evening, Pres­i­dent Trump direct­ed his full ire at the last bonds hold­ing Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy togeth­er: the integri­ty of the vote.

    Sow­ing doubt about the fair­ness of the elec­tion for his polit­i­cal ben­e­fit from the pres­i­den­tial pul­pit, Pres­i­dent Trump said, “if you count the legal votes, I eas­i­ly win.”

    He added, almost pre­dictably: “If you count the ille­gal votes, they can try to steal the elec­tion from us.”

    The President’s affect at the press­er was most­ly list­less, pro­ject­ing a lack of ener­gy and appar­ent exhaus­tion with the sit­u­a­tion. But his claims are incred­i­bly cor­ro­sive to the core of Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy: that both par­ties to an elec­tion respect the process and its results, allow­ing a shared sense of real­i­ty and legit­i­ma­cy regard­less of who wins and who los­es.

    Trump has spent the past few days stomp­ing that con­cept into the ground, hol­ing up in the White House to deride the elec­tion as “ille­git­i­mate” through sur­ro­gates, twit­ter, and, Thurs­day evening, a press con­fer­ence, at which he appeared for the first time in more than 24 hours.

    Specif­i­cal­ly, Pres­i­dent Trump has been try­ing to argue that votes from Demo­c­ra­t­ic-major­i­ty areas are fraud­u­lent, and that the slow count­ing of mail-in bal­lots rep­re­sents some kind of a con­spir­a­cy.

    Though there is no evi­dence to sup­port any of these claims, and many news net­works cut away while he was speak­ing, mil­lions will believe the Pres­i­dent, and will spend years think­ing that the 2020 elec­tion was some­how stolen. Trump, him­self, is the first Pres­i­dent to use the posi­tion of his office to cast doubt on the very process that deliv­ered him there, cre­at­ing a deep fis­sure in the Amer­i­can body politic.

    “I chal­lenge Joe and every Demo­c­rat to clar­i­fy that they only want legal votes, because they talk about votes and I think they should use the word legal, legal votes,” Trump said.

    Pres­i­dent Trump is play­ing on years of fear-mon­ger­ing by the GOP around the myth of wide­spread vot­er fraud, but is tak­ing it both to a new lev­el and, arguably, its log­i­cal con­clu­sion by stat­ing that the entire sys­tem is cor­rupt and irre­deemable.

    The Pres­i­dent sin­gled out “mail-in” vot­ing in par­tic­u­lar as being the source of much of the delays and uncer­tain­ty around the tal­ly. Of course, Trump has done more than any­one to sow doubt in the process.

    He’s also been abet­ted in that by Repub­li­can state leg­is­la­tors who refused to enact minor reforms that would have sped up the count­ing process, giv­ing Trump these crit­i­cal extra days to take a sledge­ham­mer to pub­lic con­fi­dence in the elec­tion.

    Trump also cast com­plet­ed vote tal­lies in many states show­ing a Biden vic­to­ry as the Demo­c­rat sim­ply “claim­ing cer­tain states” — not an objec­tive fact stem­ming from the deci­sion of mil­lions of vot­ers.

    He added that he had won both Michi­gan and Wis­con­sin — two states that have fin­ished count­ing and defin­i­tive­ly gone for Joe Biden.

    The only body that could decide the process now, Trump added, would be the Supreme Court.

    “We can both claim the states but, ulti­mate­ly, I have a feel­ing judges are going to have to play a role,” Trump said.

    For Trump, any­thing short of a vic­to­ry is theft.

    “We can’t have an elec­tion stolen like this,” the Pres­i­dent said, as hun­dreds of thou­sands of votes from Demo­c­ra­t­ic areas remain out­stand­ing.

    His remarks are like­ly to deep­en the extreme polar­iza­tion that led to his own elec­tion, cre­at­ing a con­stituen­cy of vot­ers who believe that a poten­tial Joe Biden admin­is­tra­tion is inher­ent­ly ille­git­i­mate and lacks any sort of pop­u­lar man­date.

    It also comes as Trump’s son and oth­ers sug­gest that the Pres­i­dent, should he lose, may run again in 2024.

    Trump added, base­less­ly, that he had “won many crit­i­cal states,” though the states that are crit­i­cal for his re-elec­tion — Penn­syl­va­nia, Neva­da, Ari­zona, and Geor­gia — are all slip­ping out of his reach.

    “It’s amaz­ing how mail-in bal­lots are so one-sided,” Trump added.

    His remarks — cast­ing doubt on the integri­ty of the elec­tion and the process­es that went into it — were long expect­ed, and fol­low on years of sim­i­lar­ly irre­spon­si­ble behav­ior.

    But in strand­ing mil­lions of his own vot­ers in an alter­nate real­i­ty in which the elec­tion was stolen, Trump has dropped a bomb in the country’s polit­i­cal sys­tem, leav­ing the U.S. with a con­stituen­cy primed to dis­be­lieve in the basic fab­ric of our democ­ra­cy.

    ...

    ———–

    “Trump Declares War On Amer­i­can Democ­ra­cy” by Josh Koven­sky; Talk­ing Points Memo; 11/05/2020

    “But in strand­ing mil­lions of his own vot­ers in an alter­nate real­i­ty in which the elec­tion was stolen, Trump has dropped a bomb in the country’s polit­i­cal sys­tem, leav­ing the U.S. with a con­stituen­cy primed to dis­be­lieve in the basic fab­ric of our democ­ra­cy.”

    Trump just bombed Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy. A Dis­in­for­ma­tion Bomb mas­querad­ing as a Truth Bomb and intend­ed to blow of the nec­es­sary civic accep­tance of the elec­tion results that democ­ra­cies depend on. It real­ly was a bomb intend­ed to blow up democ­ra­cy.

    But this is far from just a Trump-declared war on democ­ra­cy. The vast major­i­ty of his fel­low Repub­li­can lead­ers and elect­ed offi­cials are qui­et­ly sup­port­ing the pres­i­den­t’s decrees. Beyond that, Fox News’s prime time per­son­al­i­ties, who have a pro­found influ­ence on Trump’s think­ing, are ful­ly behind the nar­ra­tive that the elec­tion is some­how being stolen through mass vot­er fraud. It’s a group effort.

    And as we’ll see in the fol­low­ing arti­cle, Newt Gin­grich — long one of Trump’s biggest back­ers and an infor­mal advi­sor — was just on Sean Han­ni­ty’s show last night call­ing for Trump to begin mass arrest­ing Penn­syl­va­ni­a’s poll work­ers and just throw out the votes out from Demo­c­ra­t­ic strong­holds like Philadel­phia. As the above piece describes Trump’s gen­er­al attack on the out, it’s the log­i­cal con­clu­sion of decades of the great Repub­li­can vot­er fraud hoax and the log­i­cal con­clu­sion for a par­ty increas­ing­ly reliant on using any trick avail­able to win elec­tions. And that’s what we’re hear­ing for Gin­grich. It’s the next log­i­cal con­clu­sion of this war on democ­ra­cy: Just declare vot­ing inher­ent­ly cor­rupt and move throw out all the ‘bad’ (Demo­c­ra­t­ic) votes:

    The Dai­ly Beast

    Newt Gin­grich: Bill Barr Should Arrest Poll Work­ers

    “Any precinct, any precinct that we were not able to observe, strip those votes out. Do not count them. Because they are by def­i­n­i­tion cor­rupt,” Newt exclaimed at one point.

    Justin Barag­o­na
    Con­tribut­ing Edi­tor
    Pub­lished Nov. 06, 2020 1:46AM ET

    For­mer Speak­er of the House Newt Gin­grich seem­ing­ly demand­ed on Thurs­day night that Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bill Barr use fed­er­al agents to arrest elec­tion work­ers in Penn­syl­va­nia and that elec­tion results in the state should be tossed.

    ...

    “If you count the legal votes, I eas­i­ly win. If you count the ille­gal votes, they can try to steal the elec­tion from us,” Trump said. Team Trump, mean­while, con­tin­ued to file and threat­en law­suits in states where the pres­i­dent is trail­ing or could poten­tial­ly lose.

    Fox News host and infor­mal Trump advis­er Sean Han­ni­ty devot­ed the bulk of his Thurs­day night broad­cast to propos­ing a new strat­e­gy to the pres­i­dent and his cam­paign: demand that Penn­syl­va­nia, the tip­ping point state, just re-do its elec­tion.

    After sell­ing Trump-boost­ing Sens. Lind­sey Gra­ham and Ted Cruz on the idea, the Fox News star then checked in with Gin­grich, ask­ing him about the focus of one of the Trump campaign’s recent law­suits.

    “Let’s see. Penn­syl­va­nia, Michi­gan, Wis­con­sin, all of them, a lot of them men­tion par­ti­san observers are per­mit­ted to be present when bal­lots are count­ed,” Han­ni­ty stat­ed. “But we get report after report that they are not being allowed to observe. Is that a vio­la­tion of law? And how do you rem­e­dy that?”

    “My hope is that Pres­i­dent Trump will lead the mil­lions of Amer­i­cans who under­stand exact­ly what’s going on,” Gin­grich fumed. “The Philadel­phia machine is cor­rupt. The Atlanta machine is cor­rupt. The machine in Detroit is cor­rupt. And they are try­ing to steal the pres­i­den­cy. And we should not allow them to do that.”

    “First of all, under fed­er­al law, we should lock up the peo­ple who are break­ing the law,” he con­tin­ued. “You stop some­body from being an observ­er, you just broke fed­er­al law. Do you hide and put up papers so nobody can see what you’re doing? You just broke fed­er­al law. You bring in bal­lots that aren’t real? You just broke fed­er­al law.”

    After call­ing for poll work­ers to be locked up over the right’s lat­est con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about the elec­tion, the for­mer speak­er won­dered aloud if Repub­li­cans are “sup­posed to sur­ren­der,” adding that the specter of Trump los­ing is “a gen­uine deep cri­sis of our sur­vival.”

    “So, what is the answer, now that the law’s been vio­lat­ed and observers been kicked out? Does­n’t it ren­der the vote ille­git­i­mate?” Han­ni­ty asked.

    “The first answer—the first answer is for the attor­ney. Look, the attor­ney gen­er­al this after­noon issued an order that fed­er­al agents can car­ry guns in the pur­suit of peo­ple who are break­ing the law. That’s a sig­nal,” Gin­grich respond­ed.

    The ex-speak­er began to call for the pres­i­dent to “calm­ly announce” what should hap­pen to those “caught attempt­ing to steal votes” or block­ing observers before Han­ni­ty inter­ject­ed, claim­ing they were run­ning out of time.

    “It’s already hap­pened. The votes have already been count­ed and they didn’t have observers. They were kept away,” Han­ni­ty exclaimed, reit­er­at­ing his pre­vi­ous ques­tion. (Observers were not kept away. The Trump team’s law­suit com­plained that their poll watch­ers, which were there from the begin­ning, weren’t allowed to be close enough to observe the bal­lot count­ing.)

    “You take them back,” Gin­grich exclaimed. “Any precinct, any precinct that we were not able to observe, strip those votes out. Do not count them. Because they are by def­i­n­i­tion cor­rupt.”

    —————

    “Newt Gin­grich: Bill Barr Should Arrest Poll Work­ers” by Justin Barag­o­na; The Dai­ly Beast; 11/06/2020

    ““You take them back,” Gin­grich exclaimed. “Any precinct, any precinct that we were not able to observe, strip those votes out. Do not count them. Because they are by def­i­n­i­tion cor­rupt.””

    Just throw the Philadel­phia votes out because they are by def­i­n­i­tion cor­rupt. That was Newt Gin­grich’s advice to Trump last night on Sean Han­ni­ty’s prime time Fox News show. And as we should expect, the under­ly­ing com­plaint of these Philadel­phia votes is com­plete non­sense. Repub­li­can observers were allowed to observe the vote count­ing. They just weren’t allowed to be right up next to the vote coun­ters due to coro­n­avirus con­cerns. That’s the pre­text of this com­plaint:

    ...
    “It’s already hap­pened. The votes have already been count­ed and they didn’t have observers. They were kept away,” Han­ni­ty exclaimed, reit­er­at­ing his pre­vi­ous ques­tion. (Observers were not kept away. The Trump team’s law­suit com­plained that their poll watch­ers, which were there from the begin­ning, weren’t allowed to be close enough to observe the bal­lot count­ing.)
    ...

    And, again, Newt Gin­grich isn’t some ran­dom talk­ing head. Not only has he long been a very influ­en­tial voice regard­ing Trump’s polit­i­cal ambi­tions but, as the fol­low­ing impor­tant 2018 arti­cle in the Atlantic make clear, if we had to iden­ti­fy the fig­ure how made the rise of Trump-style anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic pol­i­tics pos­si­ble, Newt Gin­grich would almost cer­tain­ly have to be at the top of the list. He real­ly is a gen­uine­ly despi­ca­ble indi­vid­ual who spent decades using the strat­e­gy of cre­at­ing chaos, poi­son­ing the polit­i­cal atmos­phere, and telling Big Lies for the pur­pose of gain­ing pow­er under a no-holds-barred ethos. His polit­i­cal career is like a man­i­fes­ta­tion of Ser­pen­t’s Walk. The only rea­son his role in the destruc­tion of Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy isn’t more wide­ly rec­og­nized is because he was so suc­cess­ful the entire GOP has been remade in his image. A remak­ing that took place long before Trump came along. Trump real­ly is the log­i­cal con­clu­sion of the exis­ten­tial psy­chic dam­age Gin­grich inflict­ed in the US decades ear­li­er:

    The Atlantic

    The Man Who Broke Pol­i­tics

    Newt Gin­grich turned par­ti­san bat­tles into blood­sport, wrecked Con­gress, and paved the way for Trump’s rise. Now he’s rev­el­ing in his achieve­ments.

    Sto­ry by McK­ay Cop­pins
    Novem­ber 2018 Issue
    Updat­ed on Octo­ber 17, 2018

    Newt Gin­grich is an impor­tant man, a man of refined tastes, accus­tomed to a cer­tain lifestyle, and so when he vis­its the zoo, he does not mere­ly stand with all the oth­er patrons to look at the tortoises—he goes inside the tank.

    On this par­tic­u­lar after­noon in late March, the for­mer speak­er of the House can be found shuf­fling gid­di­ly around a damp, 90-degree enclo­sure at the Philadel­phia Zoo—a rum­pled suit draped over his ele­phan­tine frame, plas­tic booties wrapped around his feet—as he tick­les and strokes and paws at the giant shelled rep­tiles, declar­ing them “very cool.”

    It’s a weird scene, and after a few min­utes, onlook­ers begin to gath­er on the oth­er side of the glass—craning their necks and snap­ping pic­tures with their phones and ask­ing each oth­er, Is that who I think it is? The atten­tion would be enough to make a less­er man—say, a sweaty mag­a­zine writer who fol­lowed his sub­ject into the tor­toise tank for rea­sons that are now escap­ing him—grow self-con­scious. But Gin­grich, for whom all of this rather close­ly approx­i­mates a nat­ur­al habi­tat, bare­ly seems to notice.

    ...

    There’s some­thing about Newt Gin­grich that seems to cap­ture the spir­it of Amer­i­ca cir­ca 2018. With his immense head and white mop of hair; his cold, boy­ish grin; and his high, raspy voice, he has the air of a late-empire Roman senator—a walk­ing bun­dle of appetites and excess­es and hubris and wit. In con­ver­sa­tion, he tog­gles unnerv­ing­ly between grandiose pro­nounce­ments about “West­ern civ­i­liza­tion” and par­ti­san cheap shots that seem tai­lored for cable news. It’s a com­bi­na­tion of self-right­eous­ness and small­ness, of pom­pos­i­ty and pet­ti­ness, that per­son­i­fies the deca­dence of this era.

    In the clam­orous sto­ry of Don­ald Trump’s Wash­ing­ton, it would be easy to mis­take Gin­grich for a minor char­ac­ter. A loy­al Trump ally in 2016, Gin­grich for­went a high-pow­ered post in the admin­is­tra­tion and has instead spent the years since the elec­tion cash­ing in on his access—churning out books (three Trump hagiogra­phies, one spy thriller), work­ing the speak­ing cir­cuit (where he com­mands as much as $75,000 per talk for his insights on the pres­i­dent), and pop­ping up on Fox News as a paid con­trib­u­tor. He spends much of his time in Rome, where his wife, Cal­lista, serves as Trump’s ambas­sador to the Vat­i­can and where, he likes to boast, “We have yet to find a bad restau­rant.”

    But few fig­ures in mod­ern his­to­ry have done more than Gin­grich to lay the ground­work for Trump’s rise. Dur­ing his two decades in Con­gress, he pio­neered a style of par­ti­san combat—replete with name-call­ing, con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, and strate­gic obstructionism—that poi­soned America’s polit­i­cal cul­ture and plunged Wash­ing­ton into per­ma­nent dys­func­tion. Gingrich’s career can per­haps be best under­stood as a grand exer­cise in devolution—an effort to strip Amer­i­can pol­i­tics of the civ­i­liz­ing traits it had devel­oped over time and return it to its most pri­mal essence.

    When I ask him how he views his lega­cy, Gin­grich takes me on a tour of a West­ern world gripped by cri­sis. In Wash­ing­ton, chaos reigns as insti­tu­tion­al author­i­ty crum­bles. Through­out Amer­i­ca, right-wing Trumpites and left-wing resisters are treat­ing midterm races like calami­tous fronts in a civ­il war that must be won at all costs. And in Europe, pop­ulist revolts are wreak­ing hav­oc in cap­i­tals across the Con­ti­nent.

    Twen­ty-five years after engi­neer­ing the Repub­li­can Rev­o­lu­tion, Gin­grich can draw a direct line from his work in Con­gress to the upheaval now tak­ing place around the globe. But as he sur­veys the wreck­age of the mod­ern polit­i­cal land­scape, he is not regret­ful. He’s glee­ful.

    “The old order is dying,” he tells me. “Almost every­where you have free­dom, you have a very deep dis­con­tent that the sys­tem isn’t work­ing.”

    And that’s a good thing? I ask.

    “It’s essen­tial,” he says, “if you want West­ern civ­i­liza­tion to sur­vive.”

    On June 24, 1978, Gin­grich stood to address a gath­er­ing of Col­lege Repub­li­can at a Hol­i­day Inn near the Atlanta air­port. It was a nat­ur­al audi­ence for him. At 35, he was more youth­ful-look­ing than the aver­age con­gres­sion­al can­di­date, with fash­ion­ably robust side­burns and a cool-pro­fes­sor charis­ma that had made him one of the more pop­u­lar fac­ul­ty mem­bers at West Geor­gia Col­lege.

    But Gin­grich had not come to deliv­er an aca­d­e­m­ic lec­ture to the young activists before him—he had come to foment rev­o­lu­tion.

    “One of the great prob­lems we have in the Repub­li­can Par­ty is that we don’t encour­age you to be nasty,” he told the group. “We encour­age you to be neat, obe­di­ent, and loy­al, and faith­ful, and all those Boy Scout words, which would be great around the camp­fire but are lousy in pol­i­tics.”

    For their par­ty to suc­ceed, Gin­grich went on, the next gen­er­a­tion of Repub­li­cans would have to learn to “raise hell,” to stop being so “nice,” to real­ize that pol­i­tics was, above all, a cut­throat “war for power”—and to start act­ing like it.

    The speech received lit­tle atten­tion at the time. Gin­grich was, after all, an obscure, untenured pro­fes­sor whose polit­i­cal expe­ri­ence con­sist­ed of two failed con­gres­sion­al bids. But when, a few months lat­er, he was final­ly elect­ed to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives on his third try, he went to Wash­ing­ton a man obsessed with becom­ing the kind of leader he had described that day in Atlanta.

    The GOP was then at its low­est point in mod­ern his­to­ry. Scores of Repub­li­can law­mak­ers had been wiped out in the after­math of Water­gate, and those who’d sur­vived seemed, to Gin­grich, sad­ly resigned to a “per­ma­nent minor­i­ty” mind-set. “It was like death,” he recalls of the mood in the cau­cus. “They were moral­ly and psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly shat­tered.”

    But Gin­grich had a plan. The way he saw it, Repub­li­cans would nev­er be able to take back the House as long as they kept com­pro­mis­ing with the Democ­rats out of some high-mind­ed civic desire to keep con­gres­sion­al busi­ness hum­ming along. His strat­e­gy was to blow up the bipar­ti­san coali­tions that were essen­tial to leg­is­lat­ing, and then seize on the result­ing dys­func­tion to wage a pop­ulist cru­sade against the insti­tu­tion of Con­gress itself. “His idea,” says Norm Orn­stein, a polit­i­cal sci­en­tist who knew Gin­grich at the time, “was to build toward a nation­al elec­tion where peo­ple were so dis­gust­ed by Wash­ing­ton and the way it was oper­at­ing that they would throw the ins out and bring the outs in.”

    Gin­grich recruit­ed a cadre of young bomb throwers—a group of 12 con­gress­men he chris­tened the Con­ser­v­a­tive Oppor­tu­ni­ty Society—and togeth­er they stalked the halls of Capi­tol Hill, search­ing for trou­ble and TV cam­eras. Their emer­gence was not, at first, greet­ed with enthu­si­asm by the more mod­er­ate Repub­li­can lead­er­ship. They were too noisy, too brash, too hos­tile to the old guard’s cher­ished sense of deco­rum. They even looked different—sporting blow-dried pom­padours while their more cam­era-shy elders smeared Bryl­creem on their comb-overs.

    Gin­grich and his cohort showed lit­tle inter­est in leg­is­lat­ing, a task that had hereto­fore been seen as the pri­ma­ry respon­si­bil­i­ty of elect­ed leg­is­la­tors. Bob Liv­ingston, a Louisiana Repub­li­can who had been elect­ed to Con­gress a year before Gin­grich, mar­veled at the way the hard-charg­ing Geor­gian rose to promi­nence by ignor­ing the tra­di­tion­al path tak­en by new law­mak­ers. “My idea was to work with­in the com­mit­tee struc­ture, take care of my dis­trict, and just pay atten­tion to the leg­isla­tive process,” Liv­ingston told me. “But Newt came in as a rev­o­lu­tion­ary.”

    For rev­o­lu­tion­ary pur­pos­es, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives was less a gov­ern­ing body than an are­na for con­flict and dra­ma. And Gin­grich found ways to put on a show. He rec­og­nized an oppor­tu­ni­ty in the new­ly installed C‑span cam­eras, and began deliv­er­ing tirades against Democ­rats to an emp­ty cham­ber, know­ing that his remarks would be beamed to view­ers across the coun­try.

    As his pro­file grew, Gin­grich took aim at the mod­er­ates in his own party—calling Bob Dole the “tax col­lec­tor for the wel­fare state”—and bait­ed Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers with all man­ner of epi­thet and insult: pro-com­mu­nist, un-Amer­i­can, tyran­ni­cal. In 1984, one of his floor speech­es prompt­ed a red-faced erup­tion from Speak­er Tip O’Neill, who said of Gingrich’s attacks, “It’s the low­est thing that I’ve ever seen in my 32 years in Con­gress!” The episode land­ed them both on the night­ly news, and Gin­grich, know­ing the score, declared vic­to­ry. “I am now a famous per­son,” he gloat­ed to The Wash­ing­ton Post.

    It’s hard to over­state just how rad­i­cal these actions were at the time. Although Con­gress had been a volatile place dur­ing peri­ods of Amer­i­can history—with fist­fights and can­ings and rep­re­sen­ta­tives bel­low­ing vio­lent threats at one another—by the mid­dle of the 20th cen­tu­ry, law­mak­ers had large­ly coa­lesced around a sta­bi­liz­ing set of norms and tra­di­tions. Entrenched com­mit­tee chairs may have dab­bled in pet­ty cor­rup­tion, and Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers may have pushed around the Repub­li­can minor­i­ty when they were in a pinch, but as a rule, comi­ty reigned. “Most mem­bers still believed in the idea that the Framers had in mind,” says Thomas Mann, a schol­ar who stud­ies Con­gress. “They believed in gen­uine delib­er­a­tion and com­pro­mise … and they had insti­tu­tion­al loy­al­ty.”

    This ethos was per­haps best embod­ied by Repub­li­can Minor­i­ty Leader Bob Michel, an ami­able World War II vet­er­an known around Wash­ing­ton for his aver­sion to swear­ing—dog­gone it and by Jiminy were fix­tures of his vocabulary—as well as his pen­chant for car­pool­ing and golf­ing with Demo­c­ra­t­ic col­leagues. Michel was no lib­er­al, but he believed that the best way to serve con­ser­vatism, and his coun­try, was by work­ing hon­est­ly with Demo­c­ra­t­ic leaders—pulling leg­is­la­tion inch by inch to the right when he could, and pro­tect­ing the good faith that made aisle-cross­ing pos­si­ble.

    Gin­grich was unim­pressed by Michel’s con­cil­ia­to­ry approach. “He rep­re­sent­ed a cul­ture which had been defeat­ed con­sis­tent­ly,” he recalls. More impor­tant, Gin­grich intu­it­ed that the old dynam­ics that had pro­duced pub­lic ser­vants like Michel were crum­bling. Tec­ton­ic shifts in Amer­i­can politics—particularly around issues of race and civ­il rights—had trig­gered an ide­o­log­i­cal sort­ing between the two par­ties. Lib­er­al Repub­li­cans and con­ser­v­a­tive Democ­rats (two groups that had been well rep­re­sent­ed in Con­gress) were begin­ning to van­ish, and with them, the cross-par­ty part­ner­ships that had fos­tered coop­er­a­tion.

    This polar­iza­tion didn’t orig­i­nate with Gin­grich, but he took advan­tage of it, as he set out to cir­cum­vent the old pow­er struc­tures and build his own. Rather than let­ting the par­ty boss­es in Wash­ing­ton decide which can­di­dates deserved insti­tu­tion­al sup­port, he took con­trol of a group called gopac and used it to recruit and train an army of mini-Newts to run for office.

    Gin­grich hus­tled to keep his cause—and himself—in the press. “If you’re not in The Wash­ing­ton Post every day, you might as well not exist,” he told one reporter. His secret to cap­tur­ing head­lines was sim­ple, he explained to sup­port­ers: “The No. 1 fact about the news media is they love fights … When you give them con­fronta­tions, you get atten­tion; when you get atten­tion, you can edu­cate.”

    Effec­tive as these tac­tics were in the short term, they had a cor­ro­sive effect on the way Con­gress oper­at­ed. “Grad­u­al­ly, it went from leg­is­lat­ing, to the weaponiza­tion of leg­is­lat­ing, to the per­ma­nent cam­paign, to the per­ma­nent war,” Mann says. “It’s like he took a wreck­ing ball to the most pow­er­ful and influ­en­tial leg­is­la­ture in the world.”

    But Gin­grich looks back with pride on the trans­for­ma­tions he set in motion. “Noise became a proxy for sta­tus,” he tells me. And no one was nois­i­er than Newt.

    ...

    By 1988, Gingrich’s plan to con­quer Con­gress via sab­o­tage was well under way. As his nation­al pro­file had risen, so too had his influ­ence with­in the Repub­li­can caucus—his orig­i­nal quo­rum of 12 dis­ci­ples hav­ing expand­ed to dozens of sharp-elbowed House con­ser­v­a­tives who looked to him for guid­ance.

    Gin­grich encour­aged them to go after their ene­mies with catchy, allit­er­a­tive nicknames—“Daffy Dukakis,” “the loony left”—and schooled them in the art of par­ti­san blood sport. Through gopac, he sent out cas­sette tapes and mem­os to Repub­li­can can­di­dates across the coun­try who want­ed to “speak like Newt,” pro­vid­ing them with care­ful­ly honed attack lines and cre­at­ing, quite lit­er­al­ly, a new vocab­u­lary for a gen­er­a­tion of con­ser­v­a­tives. One memo, titled “Lan­guage: A Key Mech­a­nism of Con­trol,” includ­ed a list of rec­om­mend­ed words to use in describ­ing Democ­rats: sick, pathet­ic, lie, anti-flag, trai­tors, rad­i­cal, cor­rupt.

    The goal was to reframe the bor­ing pol­i­cy debates in Wash­ing­ton as a nation­al bat­tle between good and evil, white hats ver­sus black—a fight for the very soul of Amer­i­ca. Through this prism, any news sto­ry could be turned into a wedge. Woody Allen had an affair with his partner’s adop­tive daugh­ter? “It fits the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty plat­form per­fect­ly,” Gin­grich declared. A deranged South Car­oli­na woman mur­dered her two chil­dren? A symp­tom of a “sick” soci­ety, Gin­grich intoned—and “the only way you can get change is to vote Repub­li­can.”

    Gin­grich was not above min­ing the dark­est reach­es of the right-wing fever swamps for mate­r­i­al. When Vince Fos­ter, a staffer in the Clin­ton White House, com­mit­ted sui­cide, Gin­grich pub­licly flirt­ed with fringe con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries that sug­gest­ed he had been assas­si­nat­ed. “He took these things that were con­fined to the mar­gins of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment and main­streamed them,” says David Brock, who worked as a con­ser­v­a­tive jour­nal­ist at the time, cov­er­ing the var­i­ous Clin­ton scan­dals, before lat­er becom­ing a Demo­c­ra­t­ic oper­a­tive. “What I think he saw was the poten­tial for using them to throw sand in the gears of Clinton’s abil­i­ty to gov­ern.”

    Despite his grow­ing grass­roots fol­low­ing, Gin­grich remained unpop­u­lar among a cer­tain con­tin­gent of con­gres­sion­al Repub­li­cans, who were scan­dal­ized by his tac­tics. But that start­ed to change when Democ­rats elect­ed Texas Con­gress­man Jim Wright as speak­er. Where­as Tip O’Neill had been known for work­ing across par­ty lines, Wright came off as gruff and power-hungry—and his efforts to side­line the Repub­li­can minor­i­ty enraged even many of the GOP’s mild-man­nered mod­er­ates. “Peo­ple start­ed ask­ing, ‘Who’s the mean­est, nas­ti­est son of a bitch we can get to fight back?’?” recalls Mick­ey Edwards, a Repub­li­can who was then rep­re­sent­ing Okla­homa in the House. “And, of course, that was Newt Gin­grich.”

    Gin­grich unleashed a smear cam­paign aimed at tak­ing Wright down. He report­ed­ly cir­cu­lat­ed unsup­port­ed rumors about a scan­dal involv­ing a teenage con­gres­sion­al page, and tried to tie Wright to shady for­eign-lob­by­ing prac­tices. Final­ly, one alle­ga­tion gained traction—that Wright had used $60,000 in book roy­al­ties to evade lim­its on out­side income. Water­gate, this was not. But it was enough to force Wright’s res­ig­na­tion, and hand Gin­grich the scalp he so craved.

    The episode cement­ed Gingrich’s sta­tus as the de fac­to leader of the GOP in Wash­ing­ton. Head­ing into the 1994 midterms, he ral­lied Repub­li­cans around the idea of turn­ing Elec­tion Day into a nation­al ref­er­en­dum. On Sep­tem­ber 27, more than 300 can­di­dates gath­ered out­side the Capi­tol to sign the “Con­tract With Amer­i­ca,” a doc­u­ment of Gingrich’s cre­ation that out­lined 10 bills Repub­li­cans promised to pass if they took con­trol of the House.

    “Today, on these steps, we offer this con­tract as a first step towards renew­ing Amer­i­can civ­i­liza­tion,” Gin­grich pro­claimed.

    While can­di­dates fanned out across the coun­try to cam­paign on the con­tract, Gin­grich and his fel­low Repub­li­can lead­ers in Con­gress held fast to their strat­e­gy of grid­lock. As Elec­tion Day approached, they maneu­vered to block every piece of leg­is­la­tion they could—even those that might ordi­nar­i­ly have received bipar­ti­san sup­port, like a lob­by­ing-reform bill—on the the­o­ry that vot­ers would blame Democ­rats for the paral­y­sis.

    Pun­dits, aghast at the brazen­ness of the strat­e­gy, pre­dict­ed back­lash from voters—but few seemed to notice. Even some Repub­li­cans were sur­prised by what they were get­ting away with. Bill Kris­tol, then a GOP strate­gist, mar­veled at the suc­cess of his party’s “prin­ci­pled obstruc­tion­ism.” An up-and-com­ing sen­a­tor named Mitch McConnell was quot­ed crow­ing that oppos­ing the Democ­rats’ agen­da “gives grid­lock a good name.” When the 103rd Con­gress adjourned in Octo­ber, The Wash­ing­ton Post declared it “per­haps the worst Con­gress” in 50 years.

    Yet Gingrich’s plan worked. By the time vot­ers went to the polls, exit sur­veys revealed wide­spread frus­tra­tion with Con­gress and a deep appetite for change. Repub­li­cans achieved one of the most sweep­ing elec­toral vic­to­ries in mod­ern Amer­i­can his­to­ry. They picked up 54 seats in the House and seized state leg­is­la­tures and gov­er­nor­ships across the coun­try; for the first time in 40 years, the GOP took con­trol of both hous­es of Con­gress.

    ...

    The fresh­man Repub­li­cans who entered Con­gress in Jan­u­ary 1995 were law­mak­ers cre­at­ed in the image of Newt: young, con­fronta­tion­al, and deter­mined to inflict rad­i­cal change on Wash­ing­ton.

    Gin­grich encour­aged this rev­o­lu­tion­ary zeal, quot­ing Thomas Paine—“We have it in our pow­er to begin the world over again”—and work­ing to instill a con­vic­tion among his fol­low­ers that they were polit­i­cal gate-crash­ers, come to leave their dent on Amer­i­can his­to­ry. What Gin­grich didn’t tell them—or per­haps refused to believe himself—was that in Con­gress, his­to­ry is sel­dom made with­out con­sen­sus-build­ing and horse-trad­ing. From the cre­ation of inter­state high­ways to the pas­sage of civ­il-rights leg­is­la­tion, the most sig­nif­i­cant, last­ing acts of Con­gress have been achieved by law­mak­ers who deft­ly maneu­ver through the leg­isla­tive process and work with mem­bers of both par­ties.

    On Jan­u­ary 4, Speak­er Gin­grich gaveled Con­gress into ses­sion, and prompt­ly got to work trans­form­ing Amer­i­ca. Over the next 100 days, he and his fel­low Repub­li­cans worked fever­ish­ly to pass bills with names that sound­ed like they’d come from Repub­li­can Mad Libs—the Amer­i­can Dream Restora­tion Act, the Tak­ing Back Our Streets Act, the Fis­cal Respon­si­bil­i­ty Act. But when the dust set­tled, Amer­i­ca didn’t look all that dif­fer­ent. Almost all of the House’s big-tick­et bills got snuffed out in the Sen­ate, or died by way of pres­i­den­tial veto.

    Instead, the most endur­ing aspects of Gingrich’s speak­er­ship would be his tac­ti­cal inno­va­tions. Deter­mined to keep Repub­li­cans in pow­er, Gin­grich reori­ent­ed the con­gres­sion­al sched­ule around fill­ing cam­paign war chests, short­en­ing the offi­cial work week to three days so that mem­bers had time to dial for dol­lars. From 1994 to 1998, Repub­li­cans raised an unprece­dent­ed $1 bil­lion, and ush­ered in a new era of mon­ey in pol­i­tics.

    Gingrich’s famous bud­get bat­tles with Bill Clin­ton in 1995 gave way to anoth­er great par­ti­san inven­tion: the weaponized gov­ern­ment shut­down. There had been fed­er­al fund­ing laps­es before, but they tend­ed to be minor affairs that last­ed only a day or two. Gingrich’s shut­down, by con­trast, fur­loughed hun­dreds of thou­sands of gov­ern­ment work­ers for sev­er­al weeks at Christ­mas­time, so Repub­li­cans could use their pay­checks as a bar­ter­ing chip in nego­ti­a­tions with the White House. The gam­bit was a bust—voters blamed the GOP for the cri­sis, and Gin­grich was cas­ti­gat­ed in the press—but it ensured that the shut­down threat would loom over every con­gres­sion­al stand­off from that point on.

    There were real accom­plish­ments dur­ing Gingrich’s speak­er­ship, too—a tax cut, a bipar­ti­san health-care deal, even a bal­anced fed­er­al budget—and for a time, tru­ly his­toric tri­umphs seemed with­in reach. Over the course of sev­er­al secret meet­ings at the White House in the fall of 1997, Gin­grich told me, he and Clin­ton sketched out plans for a cen­ter-right coali­tion that would under­take big, chal­leng­ing projects such as a whole­sale reform of Social Secu­ri­ty.

    But by then, the poi­so­nous pol­i­tics Gin­grich had inject­ed into Washington’s blood­stream had escaped his con­trol. So when the sto­ries start­ed com­ing out in ear­ly 1998—the ones about the pres­i­dent and the intern, the cig­ar and the blue dress—and the par­ty faith­ful were clam­or­ing for Clinton’s head on a pike, and Gingrich’s acolytes in the House were stomp­ing their feet and cry­ing for blood … well, he knew what he had to do.

    This is “the most sys­tem­at­ic, delib­er­ate obstruc­tion-of-jus­tice cov­er-up and effort to avoid the truth we have ever seen in Amer­i­can his­to­ry!” Gin­grich declared of the Mon­i­ca Lewin­sky scan­dal, pledg­ing that he would keep bang­ing the drum until Clin­ton was impeached. “I will nev­er again, as long as I am speak­er, make a speech with­out com­ment­ing on this top­ic.”

    Nev­er mind that Repub­li­cans had no real chance of get­ting the impeach­ment through the Sen­ate. Remov­ing the pres­i­dent wasn’t the point; this was an oppor­tu­ni­ty to humil­i­ate the Democ­rats. Pol­i­tics was a “war for pow­er,” just as Gin­grich had proph­e­sied all those years ago—and he wasn’t about to give up the fight.

    The rest is immor­tal­ized in the his­to­ry books that line Gingrich’s library. The GOP’s impeach­ment cru­sade back­fired with vot­ers, Repub­li­cans lost seats in the House—and Gin­grich was dri­ven out of his job by the same blood­thirsty brigade he’d helped elect. “I’m will­ing to lead,” he sniffed on his way out the door, “but I’m not will­ing to pre­side over peo­ple who are can­ni­bals.”

    The great irony of Gingrich’s rise and reign is that, in the end, he did fun­da­men­tal­ly trans­form America—just not in the ways he’d hoped. He thought he was enshrin­ing a new era of con­ser­v­a­tive gov­ern­ment. In fact, he was enshrin­ing an attitude—angry, com­bat­ive, tribal—that would infect pol­i­tics for decades to come.

    In the years since he left the House, Gin­grich has only dou­bled down. When GOP lead­ers hud­dled at a Capi­tol Hill steak house on the night of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s inau­gu­ra­tion, Gin­grich was there to advo­cate a strat­e­gy of com­plete obstruc­tion. And when Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz led a mob of Tea Par­ty torch­bear­ers in shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment over Oba­macare, Gin­grich was there to argue that shut­downs are “a nor­mal part of the con­sti­tu­tion­al process.”

    ...

    These days, Gin­grich seems to be revis­ing his lega­cy in real time—shifting the sto­ry away from the ide­o­log­i­cal sea change that his pop­ulist dis­rup­tion was sup­posed to enable, and toward the act of pop­ulist dis­rup­tion itself. He places his own rise to pow­er and Trump’s in the same grand Amer­i­can nar­ra­tive. There have been four great polit­i­cal “waves” in the past half cen­tu­ry, he tells me: “Gold­wa­ter, Rea­gan, Gin­grich, then Trump.” But when I press him to explain what con­nects those four “waves” philo­soph­i­cal­ly, the best he can do is say they were all “anti-lib­er­al.”

    Polit­i­cal sci­en­tists who study our era of extreme polar­iza­tion will tell you that the dri­ving force behind Amer­i­can pol­i­tics today is not actu­al­ly par­ti­san­ship, but neg­a­tive par­ti­san­ship—that is, hatred of the oth­er team more than loy­al­ty to one’s own. Gingrich’s speak­er­ship was both a symp­tom and an accel­er­ant of that phe­nom­e­non.

    On Decem­ber 19, 1998, Gin­grich cast his final vote as a congressman—a vote to impeach Bill Clin­ton for lying under oath about an affair. By the time it was revealed that the ex-speak­er had been secret­ly car­ry­ing on an illic­it rela­tion­ship with a young con­gres­sion­al aide named Cal­lista through­out his impeach­ment cru­sade, almost no one was sur­prised.* This was, after all, the same man who had famous­ly been accused by his first wife (whom he’d met as a teenag­er, when she was his geom­e­try teacher) of try­ing to dis­cuss divorce terms when she was in the hos­pi­tal recov­er­ing from tumor-removal surgery, the same man who had for a time report­ed­ly restrict­ed his extra­mar­i­tal dal­liances to oral sex so that he could claim he’d nev­er slept with anoth­er woman. (Gin­grich declined to com­ment on these alle­ga­tions.)

    Detrac­tors could call it hypocrisy if they want­ed; Gin­grich might not even argue. (“It doesn’t mat­ter what I do,” he once ratio­nal­ized, accord­ing to one of his ex-wives. “Peo­ple need to hear what I have to say.”) But if he had taught Amer­i­ca one les­son, it was that any sin could be absolved, any tres­pass for­giv­en, as long as you picked the right tar­gets and swung at them hard enough.

    When Gingrich’s per­son­al life became an issue dur­ing his short-lived pres­i­den­tial cam­paign in 2012, he knew just who to swing at. Asked dur­ing a pri­ma­ry debate about an alle­ga­tion that he’d request­ed an open mar­riage with his sec­ond wife, Gin­grich took a deep breath, gath­ered all the right­eous indig­na­tion he could muster, and let loose one of the most remarkable—and effec­tive—non sequiturs in the his­to­ry of cam­paign rhetoric: “I think the destruc­tive, vicious, neg­a­tive nature of much of the news media makes it hard­er to gov­ern this coun­try, hard­er to attract decent peo­ple to run for pub­lic office—and I am appalled that you would begin a pres­i­den­tial debate on a top­ic like that.”

    The CNN mod­er­a­tor grew flus­tered, the audi­ence erupt­ed in a stand­ing ova­tion, and a few days lat­er, the vot­ers of South Car­oli­na deliv­ered Gin­grich a deci­sive vic­to­ry in the Repub­li­can pri­ma­ry.

    ...

    When Trump first began think­ing seri­ous­ly about run­ning for pres­i­dent, he turned to Gin­grich for advice. The two men had known each oth­er for years—the Gin­grich­es were mem­bers of Trump’s golf club in Virginia—and one morn­ing in Jan­u­ary 2015 they found them­selves in Des Moines, Iowa, for a con­ser­v­a­tive con­fer­ence. Over break­fast at the down­town Mar­riott, Trump pep­pered Newt and Cal­lista with ques­tions about run­ning for president—most press­ing­ly, how much it would cost him to fund a cam­paign through the South Car­oli­na pri­ma­ry. Gin­grich esti­mat­ed that it would take about $70 mil­lion or $80 mil­lion to be com­pet­i­tive.

    As Gin­grich tells it, Trump con­sid­ered this and then replied, “Sev­en­ty to 80 million—that would be a yacht. This would be a lot more fun than a yacht!”

    And so began the cam­paign that Gin­grich would call “a water­shed moment for America’s future.” Ear­ly on, Gin­grich set him­self apart from oth­er promi­nent con­ser­v­a­tives by talk­ing up Trump’s can­di­da­cy on TV and defend­ing him against attacks from the GOP estab­lish­ment. “Newt watched the Trump phe­nom­e­non take hold and metas­ta­size, and he saw the par­al­lels” to his own rise, says Kellyanne Con­way, a senior advis­er to the pres­i­dent who worked with Gin­grich in the 1990s. “He rec­og­nized the echoes of ‘You can’t do this, this is a joke, you’re une­lec­table, don’t even try, you should be bow­ing to the peo­ple who have cre­den­tials.’ Newt had heard that all before.” Trump’s response—to cast all his skep­tics as part of the same cor­rupt class of insid­ers and crooks—borrowed from the strat­e­gy Gin­grich had mod­eled, Con­way told me: “Long before there was ‘Drain the swamp,’ there was Newt’s ‘Throw the bums out.’?”

    Once Trump clinched the nom­i­na­tion, he reward­ed Gin­grich by putting him on the vice-pres­i­den­tial short list. For a while it looked like it might real­ly hap­pen. Gin­grich had the sup­port of influ­en­tial inner-cir­clers like Sean Han­ni­ty, who flew him out on a pri­vate jet to meet with Trump on the cam­paign trail. But alas, a Trump-Gin­grich tick­et was not to be. There were, it turned out, cer­tain opti­cal issues that would have proved dif­fi­cult to spin. As Ed Rollins, who ran a pro-Trump super pac, put it at the time, “It’d be a tick­et with six for­mer wives, kind of like a Hen­ry VIII thing.”

    After Trump was elect­ed, Gingrich’s name was float­ed for sev­er­al high-pro­file admin­is­tra­tion posts. Eager to affirm his cen­tral­i­ty in this hinge-of-his­to­ry moment, he start­ed pub­licly imply­ing that he had turned down the job of sec­re­tary of state in favor of a sweep­ing, self-designed role with ambigu­ous respon­si­bil­i­ties—“gen­er­al plan­ner,” he called it, or “senior plan­ner,” or maybe “chief plan­ner.”

    In fact, accord­ing to a tran­si­tion offi­cial, Gin­grich had lit­tle inter­est in giv­ing up his lucra­tive pri­vate-sec­tor side hus­tles, and was nev­er real­ly in the run­ning for a Cab­i­net posi­tion. Instead, he had two requests: that Trump’s team leak that he was being con­sid­ered for high office, and that Cal­lista, a life­long Catholic, be named ambas­sador to the Holy See. (Gin­grich dis­putes this account.)

    The Vat­i­can gig was wide­ly cov­et­ed, and there was some con­cern that Callista’s pub­lic his­to­ry of adul­tery would prompt the pope to reject her appoint­ment. But the Gin­grich­es were friend­ly with a num­ber of Amer­i­can car­di­nals, and Callista’s nom­i­na­tion sailed through. In Wash­ing­ton, the appoint­ment was seen as a tes­ta­ment to the self-par­o­d­ic nature of the Trump era—but in Rome, the arrange­ment has worked sur­pris­ing­ly well. Robert Mick­ens, a long­time Vat­i­can jour­nal­ist, told me that Cal­lista is gen­er­al­ly viewed as the cer­e­mo­ni­al face of the embassy, while Newt—who told me he talks to the White House 10 to 15 times a week—acts as the “shad­ow ambas­sador.”

    Mean­while, back in the States, Gin­grich got to work mar­ket­ing him­self as the pre­mier pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al of the Trump era. Ever since he was a young con­gress­man, he had labored to cul­ti­vate a cere­bral image, often schlep­ping piles of books into meet­ings on Capi­tol Hill. As an exer­cise in self-brand­ing, at least, the effort seems to have worked: When I sent an email ask­ing Paul Ryan what he thought of Gin­grich, he respond­ed with a pro for­ma state­ment describ­ing the for­mer speak­er as an “ideas guy” twice in the space of six sen­tences.

    Yet wad­ing through Gingrich’s var­i­ous books, arti­cles, and think-tank speech­es about Trump, it is dif­fi­cult to iden­ti­fy any coher­ent set of “ideas” ani­mat­ing his sup­port for the pres­i­dent. He is not a nat­ur­al boost­er for the eco­nom­ic nation­al­ism espoused by peo­ple like Steve Ban­non, nor does he seem par­tic­u­lar­ly smit­ten with the iso­la­tion­ism Trump cham­pi­oned on the stump.

    Instead, Gin­grich seems drawn to Trump the larg­er-than-life leader—virile and mas­cu­line, dynam­ic and strong, brim­ming with “total ener­gy” as he mows down every ene­my in his path. “Don­ald Trump is the griz­zly bear in The Revenant,” Gin­grich gushed dur­ing a Decem­ber 2016 speech on “The Prin­ci­ples of Trump­ism” at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion. “If you get his atten­tion, he will get awake … He will walk over, bite your face off, and sit on you.”

    In Trump, Gin­grich has found the apoth­e­o­sis of the pri­mate pol­i­tics he has been prac­tic­ing his entire life—nasty, vicious, and uncon­cerned with those pesky “Boy Scout words” as he fights in the Dar­win­ian strug­gle that is Amer­i­can life today. “Trump’s Amer­i­ca and the post-Amer­i­can soci­ety that the anti-Trump coali­tion rep­re­sents are inca­pable of coex­ist­ing,” Gin­grich writes in his most recent book. “One will sim­ply defeat the oth­er. There is no room for com­pro­mise. Trump has under­stood this per­fect­ly since day one.”

    ...

    ————

    “The Man Who Broke Pol­i­tics” by McK­ay Cop­pins; The Atlantic; Novem­ber 2018 Issue

    But few fig­ures in mod­ern his­to­ry have done more than Gin­grich to lay the ground­work for Trump’s rise. Dur­ing his two decades in Con­gress, he pio­neered a style of par­ti­san combat—replete with name-call­ing, con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, and strate­gic obstructionism—that poi­soned America’s polit­i­cal cul­ture and plunged Wash­ing­ton into per­ma­nent dys­func­tion. Gingrich’s career can per­haps be best under­stood as a grand exer­cise in devolution—an effort to strip Amer­i­can pol­i­tics of the civ­i­liz­ing traits it had devel­oped over time and return it to its most pri­mal essence.

    A grand exer­cise in the devo­lu­tion of Amer­i­ca’s democ­ra­cy. It’s a great way to sum­ma­rize the career of Newt Gin­grich. From the very begin­ning, when he first ran from Con­gress in 1978, Gin­grich was intent on break­ing Con­gress’s abil­i­ty to func­tion and then run­ning against that dys­func­tion. A wild­ly cyn­i­cal strat­e­gy that real­ly did work. It’s how he took over the GOP:

    ...
    On June 24, 1978, Gin­grich stood to address a gath­er­ing of Col­lege Repub­li­can at a Hol­i­day Inn near the Atlanta air­port. It was a nat­ur­al audi­ence for him. At 35, he was more youth­ful-look­ing than the aver­age con­gres­sion­al can­di­date, with fash­ion­ably robust side­burns and a cool-pro­fes­sor charis­ma that had made him one of the more pop­u­lar fac­ul­ty mem­bers at West Geor­gia Col­lege.

    But Gin­grich had not come to deliv­er an aca­d­e­m­ic lec­ture to the young activists before him—he had come to foment rev­o­lu­tion.

    “One of the great prob­lems we have in the Repub­li­can Par­ty is that we don’t encour­age you to be nasty,” he told the group. “We encour­age you to be neat, obe­di­ent, and loy­al, and faith­ful, and all those Boy Scout words, which would be great around the camp­fire but are lousy in pol­i­tics.”

    For their par­ty to suc­ceed, Gin­grich went on, the next gen­er­a­tion of Repub­li­cans would have to learn to “raise hell,” to stop being so “nice,” to real­ize that pol­i­tics was, above all, a cut­throat “war for power”—and to start act­ing like it.

    ...

    But Gin­grich had a plan. The way he saw it, Repub­li­cans would nev­er be able to take back the House as long as they kept com­pro­mis­ing with the Democ­rats out of some high-mind­ed civic desire to keep con­gres­sion­al busi­ness hum­ming along. His strat­e­gy was to blow up the bipar­ti­san coali­tions that were essen­tial to leg­is­lat­ing, and then seize on the result­ing dys­func­tion to wage a pop­ulist cru­sade against the insti­tu­tion of Con­gress itself. “His idea,” says Norm Orn­stein, a polit­i­cal sci­en­tist who knew Gin­grich at the time, “was to build toward a nation­al elec­tion where peo­ple were so dis­gust­ed by Wash­ing­ton and the way it was oper­at­ing that they would throw the ins out and bring the outs in.”
    ...

    It was Gin­grich was ush­ered in an era where gen­er­at­ing polit­i­cal “noise” was a goal in and of itself. Cre­at­ing polit­i­cal fights for the pur­pose of get­ting atten­tion. As Gin­grich put it, “Noise became a proxy for sta­tus.” Noise that includ­ed mak­ing up goofy names for his oppo­nents or indulging in the low­est qual­i­ty con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries he could find. Sound famil­iar?

    ...
    Gin­grich hus­tled to keep his cause—and himself—in the press. “If you’re not in The Wash­ing­ton Post every day, you might as well not exist,” he told one reporter. His secret to cap­tur­ing head­lines was sim­ple, he explained to sup­port­ers: “The No. 1 fact about the news media is they love fights … When you give them con­fronta­tions, you get atten­tion; when you get atten­tion, you can edu­cate.”

    Effec­tive as these tac­tics were in the short term, they had a cor­ro­sive effect on the way Con­gress oper­at­ed. “Grad­u­al­ly, it went from leg­is­lat­ing, to the weaponiza­tion of leg­is­lat­ing, to the per­ma­nent cam­paign, to the per­ma­nent war,” Mann says. “It’s like he took a wreck­ing ball to the most pow­er­ful and influ­en­tial leg­is­la­ture in the world.”

    But Gin­grich looks back with pride on the trans­for­ma­tions he set in motion. “Noise became a proxy for sta­tus,” he tells me. And no one was nois­i­er than Newt.

    ...

    By 1988, Gingrich’s plan to con­quer Con­gress via sab­o­tage was well under way. As his nation­al pro­file had risen, so too had his influ­ence with­in the Repub­li­can caucus—his orig­i­nal quo­rum of 12 dis­ci­ples hav­ing expand­ed to dozens of sharp-elbowed House con­ser­v­a­tives who looked to him for guid­ance.

    Gin­grich encour­aged them to go after their ene­mies with catchy, allit­er­a­tive nicknames—“Daffy Dukakis,” “the loony left”—and schooled them in the art of par­ti­san blood sport. Through gopac, he sent out cas­sette tapes and mem­os to Repub­li­can can­di­dates across the coun­try who want­ed to “speak like Newt,” pro­vid­ing them with care­ful­ly honed attack lines and cre­at­ing, quite lit­er­al­ly, a new vocab­u­lary for a gen­er­a­tion of con­ser­v­a­tives. One memo, titled “Lan­guage: A Key Mech­a­nism of Con­trol,” includ­ed a list of rec­om­mend­ed words to use in describ­ing Democ­rats: sick, pathet­ic, lie, anti-flag, trai­tors, rad­i­cal, cor­rupt.

    The goal was to reframe the bor­ing pol­i­cy debates in Wash­ing­ton as a nation­al bat­tle between good and evil, white hats ver­sus black—a fight for the very soul of Amer­i­ca. Through this prism, any news sto­ry could be turned into a wedge. Woody Allen had an affair with his partner’s adop­tive daugh­ter? “It fits the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty plat­form per­fect­ly,” Gin­grich declared. A deranged South Car­oli­na woman mur­dered her two chil­dren? A symp­tom of a “sick” soci­ety, Gin­grich intoned—and “the only way you can get change is to vote Repub­li­can.”

    Gin­grich was not above min­ing the dark­est reach­es of the right-wing fever swamps for mate­r­i­al. When Vince Fos­ter, a staffer in the Clin­ton White House, com­mit­ted sui­cide, Gin­grich pub­licly flirt­ed with fringe con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries that sug­gest­ed he had been assas­si­nat­ed. “He took these things that were con­fined to the mar­gins of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment and main­streamed them,” says David Brock, who worked as a con­ser­v­a­tive jour­nal­ist at the time, cov­er­ing the var­i­ous Clin­ton scan­dals, before lat­er becom­ing a Demo­c­ra­t­ic oper­a­tive. “What I think he saw was the poten­tial for using them to throw sand in the gears of Clinton’s abil­i­ty to gov­ern.”
    ...

    By 1994, the suc­cess of Gin­grich’s ‘any and all smears’ strat­e­gy at tak­ing down House Speak­er Jim Wright makes him the de fac­to leader of the Repub­li­can Par­ty. So in antic­i­pa­tion of the 1994 mid-terms, he comes up with a new inno­va­tion that should sound extreme­ly famil­iar: block­ing any and all leg­is­la­tion in the hopes that frus­trat­ed vot­ers would blame the Democ­rats. It worked so well it cre­at­ed the largest polit­i­cal wave in mod­ern his­to­ry:

    ...
    Gin­grich unleashed a smear cam­paign aimed at tak­ing Wright down. He report­ed­ly cir­cu­lat­ed unsup­port­ed rumors about a scan­dal involv­ing a teenage con­gres­sion­al page, and tried to tie Wright to shady for­eign-lob­by­ing prac­tices. Final­ly, one alle­ga­tion gained traction—that Wright had used $60,000 in book roy­al­ties to evade lim­its on out­side income. Water­gate, this was not. But it was enough to force Wright’s res­ig­na­tion, and hand Gin­grich the scalp he so craved.

    The episode cement­ed Gingrich’s sta­tus as the de fac­to leader of the GOP in Wash­ing­ton. Head­ing into the 1994 midterms, he ral­lied Repub­li­cans around the idea of turn­ing Elec­tion Day into a nation­al ref­er­en­dum. On Sep­tem­ber 27, more than 300 can­di­dates gath­ered out­side the Capi­tol to sign the “Con­tract With Amer­i­ca,” a doc­u­ment of Gingrich’s cre­ation that out­lined 10 bills Repub­li­cans promised to pass if they took con­trol of the House.

    “Today, on these steps, we offer this con­tract as a first step towards renew­ing Amer­i­can civ­i­liza­tion,” Gin­grich pro­claimed.

    While can­di­dates fanned out across the coun­try to cam­paign on the con­tract, Gin­grich and his fel­low Repub­li­can lead­ers in Con­gress held fast to their strat­e­gy of grid­lock. As Elec­tion Day approached, they maneu­vered to block every piece of leg­is­la­tion they could—even those that might ordi­nar­i­ly have received bipar­ti­san sup­port, like a lob­by­ing-reform bill—on the the­o­ry that vot­ers would blame Democ­rats for the paral­y­sis.

    Pun­dits, aghast at the brazen­ness of the strat­e­gy, pre­dict­ed back­lash from voters—but few seemed to notice. Even some Repub­li­cans were sur­prised by what they were get­ting away with. Bill Kris­tol, then a GOP strate­gist, mar­veled at the suc­cess of his party’s “prin­ci­pled obstruc­tion­ism.” An up-and-com­ing sen­a­tor named Mitch McConnell was quot­ed crow­ing that oppos­ing the Democ­rats’ agen­da “gives grid­lock a good name.” When the 103rd Con­gress adjourned in Octo­ber, The Wash­ing­ton Post declared it “per­haps the worst Con­gress” in 50 years.

    Yet Gingrich’s plan worked. By the time vot­ers went to the polls, exit sur­veys revealed wide­spread frus­tra­tion with Con­gress and a deep appetite for change. Repub­li­cans achieved one of the most sweep­ing elec­toral vic­to­ries in mod­ern Amer­i­can his­to­ry. They picked up 54 seats in the House and seized state leg­is­la­tures and gov­er­nor­ships across the coun­try; for the first time in 40 years, the GOP took con­trol of both hous­es of Con­gress.
    ...

    And what does Gin­grich do after win­ning this wave? He reduces the time con­gress mem­bers spend on actu­al leg­is­lat­ing so they can spend more time fund-rais­ing from wealthy donors. It’s like he poi­sons every­thing he touch­es:

    ...
    On Jan­u­ary 4, Speak­er Gin­grich gaveled Con­gress into ses­sion, and prompt­ly got to work trans­form­ing Amer­i­ca. Over the next 100 days, he and his fel­low Repub­li­cans worked fever­ish­ly to pass bills with names that sound­ed like they’d come from Repub­li­can Mad Libs—the Amer­i­can Dream Restora­tion Act, the Tak­ing Back Our Streets Act, the Fis­cal Respon­si­bil­i­ty Act. But when the dust set­tled, Amer­i­ca didn’t look all that dif­fer­ent. Almost all of the House’s big-tick­et bills got snuffed out in the Sen­ate, or died by way of pres­i­den­tial veto.

    Instead, the most endur­ing aspects of Gingrich’s speak­er­ship would be his tac­ti­cal inno­va­tions. Deter­mined to keep Repub­li­cans in pow­er, Gin­grich reori­ent­ed the con­gres­sion­al sched­ule around fill­ing cam­paign war chests, short­en­ing the offi­cial work week to three days so that mem­bers had time to dial for dol­lars. From 1994 to 1998, Repub­li­cans raised an unprece­dent­ed $1 bil­lion, and ush­ered in a new era of mon­ey in pol­i­tics.
    ...

    Oh, and then there’s the now-per­ma­nent threat of gov­ern­ment shut­downs with every con­gres­sion­al bud­get. That was­n’t always the case. It’s anoth­er Gin­grich inno­va­tion:

    ...
    Gingrich’s famous bud­get bat­tles with Bill Clin­ton in 1995 gave way to anoth­er great par­ti­san inven­tion: the weaponized gov­ern­ment shut­down. There had been fed­er­al fund­ing laps­es before, but they tend­ed to be minor affairs that last­ed only a day or two. Gingrich’s shut­down, by con­trast, fur­loughed hun­dreds of thou­sands of gov­ern­ment work­ers for sev­er­al weeks at Christ­mas­time, so Repub­li­cans could use their pay­checks as a bar­ter­ing chip in nego­ti­a­tions with the White House. The gam­bit was a bust—voters blamed the GOP for the cri­sis, and Gin­grich was cas­ti­gat­ed in the press—but it ensured that the shut­down threat would loom over every con­gres­sion­al stand­off from that point on.
    ...

    Flash for­ward to 2015, and we learn that Gin­grich appar­ent­ly played a role in Trump’s deci­sion to run. Anoth­er ‘gift’ to Amer­i­ca’s democ­ra­cy:

    ...
    When Trump first began think­ing seri­ous­ly about run­ning for pres­i­dent, he turned to Gin­grich for advice. The two men had known each oth­er for years—the Gin­grich­es were mem­bers of Trump’s golf club in Virginia—and one morn­ing in Jan­u­ary 2015 they found them­selves in Des Moines, Iowa, for a con­ser­v­a­tive con­fer­ence. Over break­fast at the down­town Mar­riott, Trump pep­pered Newt and Cal­lista with ques­tions about run­ning for president—most press­ing­ly, how much it would cost him to fund a cam­paign through the South Car­oli­na pri­ma­ry. Gin­grich esti­mat­ed that it would take about $70 mil­lion or $80 mil­lion to be com­pet­i­tive.

    As Gin­grich tells it, Trump con­sid­ered this and then replied, “Sev­en­ty to 80 million—that would be a yacht. This would be a lot more fun than a yacht!”

    And so began the cam­paign that Gin­grich would call “a water­shed moment for America’s future.” Ear­ly on, Gin­grich set him­self apart from oth­er promi­nent con­ser­v­a­tives by talk­ing up Trump’s can­di­da­cy on TV and defend­ing him against attacks from the GOP estab­lish­ment. “Newt watched the Trump phe­nom­e­non take hold and metas­ta­size, and he saw the par­al­lels” to his own rise, says Kellyanne Con­way, a senior advis­er to the pres­i­dent who worked with Gin­grich in the 1990s. “He rec­og­nized the echoes of ‘You can’t do this, this is a joke, you’re une­lec­table, don’t even try, you should be bow­ing to the peo­ple who have cre­den­tials.’ Newt had heard that all before.” Trump’s response—to cast all his skep­tics as part of the same cor­rupt class of insid­ers and crooks—borrowed from the strat­e­gy Gin­grich had mod­eled, Con­way told me: “Long before there was ‘Drain the swamp,’ there was Newt’s ‘Throw the bums out.’?”

    ...

    In Trump, Gin­grich has found the apoth­e­o­sis of the pri­mate pol­i­tics he has been prac­tic­ing his entire life—nasty, vicious, and uncon­cerned with those pesky “Boy Scout words” as he fights in the Dar­win­ian strug­gle that is Amer­i­can life today. “Trump’s Amer­i­ca and the post-Amer­i­can soci­ety that the anti-Trump coali­tion rep­re­sents are inca­pable of coex­ist­ing,” Gin­grich writes in his most recent book. “One will sim­ply defeat the oth­er. There is no room for com­pro­mise. Trump has under­stood this per­fect­ly since day one.”
    ...

    But help­ing to bring about Trump’s can­di­da­cy isn’t Gin­grich’s final ‘gift’ to Amer­i­ca’s democ­ra­cy. What Gin­grich is doing now, by open­ly encour­ag­ing Trump to just start throw­ing out the ‘bad’ votes, that’s his final ‘gift’. Because there won’t be a democ­ra­cy left once this is over. Which has clear­ly always been Newt’s goal. A four decade long quest to destroy the abil­i­ty of Amer­i­ca’s democ­ra­cy to func­tion and destroy the idea that con­ser­v­a­tives and lib­er­als could even coex­ist. That’s open­ly been his goal all along and he isn’t shy about this.

    So per­haps one of the sil­ver lin­ings of the night­mare sit­u­a­tion the US finds itself in is that maybe now we can final­ly come to terms with incred­i­ble dam­age Newt Gin­grich did to Amer­i­ca that helped bring us to this point. Again, it’s as if his career was ded­i­cat­ed to car­ry­ing out the fas­cist takeover of the Unit­ed States described in Ser­pen­t’s Walk. That’s a tru­ly rep­re­hen­si­ble yet pro­found­ly impact­ful lega­cy that isn’t done yet. If Newt is going to go on Fox News and put these ideas in Trump’s head it’s clear his assault on Amer­i­ca’s democ­ra­cy isn’t over. There’s a few more chap­ters left in Gin­grich rev­o­lu­tion and if his­to­ry is a guide they’ll be the worst chap­ters. More incred­i­ble dam­age is on the way. Peak Newt is upon us. Trump is just his ves­sel. Per­haps now we can final­ly rec­og­nize this. Bet­ter lat­er than nev­er, even if its way too late.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 6, 2020, 3:48 pm
  2. The End is Nigh for the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. At least that appears to be the case now that the net­works have final­ly all called the elec­tion for Joe Biden. So it real­ly might be over, assum­ing the elec­tion results are accept­ed, of course. And as we should expect, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is refus­ing to con­cede and con­tin­u­ing to make alle­ga­tion of mass vot­er fraud. So this isn’t real­ly over yet. It’s just clos­er to offi­cial­ly being over but, unof­fi­cial­ly, there’s no end in site. Only Trump his mil­lions of fol­low­ers get to decide when this is tru­ly over, which is part of what makes this phase of the Trump expe­ri­ence so per­ilous. We might be at the begin­ning of the end. But we also might be at the begin­ning of some sort of hor­ri­ble domes­tic ter­ror move­ment fight­ing for Trump’s ‘stolen hon­or’ or some­thing. A neo-neo-Con­fed­er­a­cy move­ment. That could eas­i­ly hap­pen and Trump’s refusal to con­cede is only point­ing in that direc­tion.

    We also have yet to get a sense of whether or not the Repub­li­can Par­ty remains a play­thing of the Trump fam­i­ly or if we’re going to see some sort of pass­ing of the torch of the GOP’s id to some oth­er per­son­al­i­ty. There’s long been talk of Trump form­ing his own media out­let should he leave office., the kind of thought that must have Fox News quak­ing it its boots. We’re already hear­ing about a Trump 2024 rerun. It’s a real pos­si­bil­i­ty.

    But it’s also pos­si­ble we’ll see Trump effec­tive­ly flee the coun­try in com­ing months. After all, we know there were tons of crimes com­mit­ted by this admin­is­tra­tion but we have no idea yet just how many undis­cov­ered crimes are just sit­ting there wait­ing with evi­dence to be exposed. In oth­er words, Trump is the unchal­lenged leader of the Repub­li­can Par­ty right now but It will prob­a­bly take a few months for a Biden admin­is­tra­tion to set­tle into the role and con­duct a dam­age assess­ment before we real­ly have a sense of what kind of long-term crim­i­nal lia­bil­i­ties Trump could be deal­ing with in com­ing years.

    So while Trump is still the leader of a Amer­i­can con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment, and might remain in that role, it’s still a flu­id enough sit­u­a­tion where we can’t assume he’ll nec­es­sar­i­ly be the leader of the #MAGA cult in the months and years to come. Which rais­es the ques­tion of who might step into that role if Trump can’t or won’t do it. Who is even remote­ly qual­i­fied? They would have to have their pulse on the id of con­ser­v­a­tive Amer­i­ca, the media skills to exploit it, and the lack of moral com­pass required to engage in such behav­ior. And while there’s no short­age of peo­ple who have some of those skills there aren’t that many peo­ple with all of them. But there is one pair of indi­vid­ual who have those skills in spades and are more than capa­ble of step­ping into the void should Trump’s pres­ence in the Amer­i­can psy­che no longer be an option: Alex Jones and Tuck­er Carl­son.

    Alex Jones is an obvi­ous choice for replac­ing Trump as the id of #MAGA Amer­i­ca. He’s pret­ty much car­ry­ing out that role already. The rise of Trump arguably could­n’t have hap­pened if it had­n’t been pre­ced­ed by the rise of social media as a pri­ma­ry new source for Amer­i­cans and the Alex Jones-style pop garbage con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries that dom­i­nate those plat­forms. By the end of the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion, which was so dis­as­trous even con­ser­v­a­tives were look­ing to dis­tance them­selves from the train­wreck, we’ve seen grow­ing inter­est in the Alex Jones world­view that ped­dles to the audi­ence the nar­ra­tive that it’s actu­al­ly secret Satan­ic left-wing(((Jew­ish)}} Illu­mi­nati bil­lion­aires who are behind the world’s ills, and that includes the Bush fam­i­ly. All of your woes are due to secret ultra wealthy pow­er hun­gry left-wingers who are secret­ly plot­ting against white Amer­i­can and are plan­ning on impris­on­ing us all in some sort of tech­no-com­mu­nist dystopia. Big media is actu­al­ly all secret­ly left-wing — let’s just ignore the vast right-wing dis­in­fo­tain­ment com­plex that has dom­i­nat­ed polit­i­cal mes­sag­ing in the US for decades and the Big Medi­a’s cor­po­ratist track record and cod­dling of Repub­li­cans — and big cor­po­ra­tions and Wall Street are all in league with this left-wing move­ment to sub­ju­gate the pop­u­lace. All of the socioe­co­nom­ic woes expe­ri­enced by work­ing class Amer­i­cans aren’t a con­se­quence of the US’s extreme lurch to the right on eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy. No, they’re a con­se­quence of a secret Satan­ic left-wing cabal that actu­al­ly has com­mu­nist in mind. All of the socioe­conomc blow­back from decades of sup­port­ing the GOP’s ruth­less­ness cor­po­ratism is actu­al­ly the fault of a dia­bol­i­cal alliance of Hol­ly­wood and teach­ers unions plot­ting against white con­ser­v­a­tives. It’s that fun­da­men­tal­ly ahis­tor­i­cal and warped pre­sen­ta­tion of his­to­ry that has helped pro­pel Alex Jones into the hearts and minds of con­ser­v­a­tives across the US. It’s so seduc­tive­ly stu­pid you could­n’t have had QAnon had peo­ple not already been trained by Alex Jones to shut their brains off. He real­ly is the id of mod­ern day con­ser­vatism. If there’s a replace­ment for Trump it’s hard to see why it should­n’t be Alex Jones. He’s already writ­ing Trump’s scripts.

    But, of course, while Alex Jones has wide­spread appeal on the right, and an alarm­ing lev­el of appeal among the apo­lit­i­cal, it’s still dicey for a polit­i­cal par­ty to have Alex as its offi­cial mouth­piece. He’s just a lit­tle too loopy for 2024. The 2028 Repub­li­can Par­ty might be ready for an Alex Jones run for the White House, but 2024 could be a lit­tle too soon. We’ll see.

    And that brings us to Tuck­er Carl­son, the prep­pie fas­cist who man­aged to rein­vent him­self as Fox New’s alleged ‘pop­ulist’ over the last few years. What sort of pop­ulism? Well, it’s basi­cal­ly just a slight­ly warmed over ver­sion Alex Jones. Tuck­er’s new ‘pop­ulist’ nar­ra­tive is the same under­ly­ing Alex Jones nar­ra­tive — that an elites left-wing cabal run out of Hol­ly­wood and Wall Street is plot­ting to utter­ly destroy the lives of con­ser­v­a­tive white Amer­i­cans — just with­out using the terms ‘Zion­ist’ and ‘Illu­mi­nati’ all the time. He real­ly does rou­tine­ly make the alle­ga­tion on his show that the Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty is the par­ty of Big Busi­ness. Big Cor­po­ra­tions LOVE the Democ­rats. Wall Street LOVES the Democ­rats. It’s only Trump’s Repub­li­can Par­ty that stands between decent con­ser­v­a­tive Amer­i­cans and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic-led cor­po­ratist com­mu­nist cabal.

    It real­ly is that stu­pid. And yet Tuck­er Carl­son’s show is the high­est-rat­ed cable new show today. He’s wild­ly pop­u­lar on the right. If there’s anoth­er fig­ure who isn’t Don­ald Trump that almost every con­ser­v­a­tive Amer­i­can today will lis­ten to it’s Tuck­er Carl­son. He’s the main­streamed Alex Jones. A gen­uine­ly Machi­avel­lian main­stream Alex Jones who rou­tine­ly push­es up-is-down, black-is-white Big Lies on his show with­out a hint of ret­i­cence. The guy clear­ly enjoys being a malev­o­lent pro­pa­gan­dist.

    So if we’re going to try to answer the ques­tion who what hap­pens to the Repub­li­can Par­ty and US con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment going for­ward, it’s not just a ques­tion of what Don­ald Trump decides to do. It’s also a ques­tion of what Alex Jones and Tuck­er Carl­son do in the com­ing months and years. Do they take on even big­ger roles in shap­ing the move­ment? Will con­ser­v­a­tive Amer­i­cans be even more con­vinced that a left-wing Illu­mi­nati is out to destroy them by 2024? Will they decide to lead some sort of vio­lent MAGA insur­rec­tion? These are the kinds of ques­tions we have to ask. Ques­tions cen­tered around Alex Jones and Tuck­er Carl­son. Because no one else is real­ly qual­i­fied to lead the kind of mas­sive move­ment that Trump led, out­side of Trump him­self. Carl­son and Jones have that ‘it’ fac­tor (or per­haps ‘Q’ fac­tor is the appro­pri­ate term). Few oth­ers can actu­al­ly pull it off.

    And that’s all why it’s going to be increas­ing­ly impor­tant going for­ward to point out that Tuck­er Carl­son is not only a demon­stra­bly fraud­u­lent pop­ulist. He’s a self-admit­ted demon­stra­bly fraud­u­lent pop­ulist. It’s an admis­sion he made to a Vox News reporter back in Jan­u­ary of 2019, at time when there was a bunch of cov­er­age of Carl­son’s new found pop­ulism after he went on what appeared to be an anti-neo-lib­er­al­ism rant on his show. It was a sharp depar­ture from his decades of being a clas­sic Repub­li­can cor­po­ratist shill. The kind of depar­ture that raised all sorts of ques­tions about what the hell was going on and to what extent it was just Carl­son try­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on Trump’s fake pop­ulism. A fake pop­ulism that blames the woes for work­ing class Amer­i­can exclu­sive­ly on immi­gra­tion and trade deals, and frames is as, again, part of some sort of left-wing cor­po­rate plot. The mas­sive dereg­u­la­tion and slash­ing of tax­es on the wealth and cor­po­ra­tions and the decades of the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s embrace of off­shoring man­u­fac­tur­ing was­n’t at fault for the destruc­tion of US man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs. No, it was actu­al­ly a Demo­c­ra­t­ic (((Illu­mi­nati))) plot to use immi­grants against white work­ing-class Amer­i­cans. That nar­ra­tive.

    Was that nar­ra­tive the expla­na­tion for Carl­son’s seem­ing 180-degree shift? Well, as we’ll see in the inter­view, Carl­son is sur­pris­ing­ly up front about his motives. As Car­son puts it, “I’m just say­ing as a mat­ter of fact,” he told me, “a coun­try where a shrink­ing per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion is tak­ing home an ever-expand­ing pro­por­tion of the mon­ey is not a recipe for a sta­ble soci­ety. It’s not.” Carl­son then stressed that he is not a pop­ulist. But he believes some ver­sion of pop­ulism is nec­es­sary to pre­vent a full-scale polit­i­cal revolt or the onset of social­ism. Using Theodore Roo­sevelt as an exam­ple of a pres­i­dent who rec­og­nized that labor needs eco­nom­ic pow­er, Carl­son added, “Unless you want some­thing real­ly extreme to hap­pen, you need to take this seri­ous­ly and fig­ure out how to pro­tect aver­age peo­ple from these remark­ably pow­er­ful forces that have been unleashed.” Yep, in his own words, Carl­son isn’t a pop­ulist. He just plays one on TV in order to avoid a real polit­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion in response to the wealthy cap­tur­ing almost all of the wealth over the past forty years:

    Vox

    Tuck­er Carl­son has sparked the most inter­est­ing debate in con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­tics

    “All I’m say­ing is don’t act like the way things are is some­how ordained by God.”

    By Jane Coas­ton
    Jan 10, 2019, 5:00am EST

    Last Wednes­day, the con­ser­v­a­tive talk show host Tuck­er Carl­son start­ed a fire on the right after air­ing a pro­longed mono­logue on his show that was, in essence, an indict­ment of Amer­i­can cap­i­tal­ism.

    America’s “rul­ing class,” Carl­son says, are the “mer­ce­nar­ies” behind the fail­ures of the mid­dle class — includ­ing sink­ing mar­riage rates — and “the ugli­est parts of our finan­cial sys­tem.” He went on: “Any eco­nom­ic sys­tem that weak­ens and destroys fam­i­lies is not worth hav­ing. A sys­tem like that is the ene­my of a healthy soci­ety.”

    He con­clud­ed with a demand for “a fair coun­try. A decent coun­try. A cohe­sive coun­try. A coun­try whose lead­ers don’t accel­er­ate the forces of change pure­ly for their own prof­it and amuse­ment.”

    The mono­logue was stun­ning in itself, an incred­i­ble moment in which a Fox News host stat­ed that for gen­er­a­tions, “Repub­li­cans have con­sid­ered it their duty to make the world safe for bank­ing, while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly pros­e­cut­ing ever more for­eign wars.” More broad­ly, though, Carlson’s posi­tion and the ensu­ing con­tro­ver­sy reveals an ongo­ing and near­ly unsolv­able ten­sion in con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­tics about the mean­ing of pop­ulism, a polit­i­cal ide­ol­o­gy that Trump cam­paigned on but Carl­son argues he may not tru­ly under­stand.

    More­over, in Carlson’s words: “At some point, Don­ald Trump will be gone. The rest of us will be gone too. The coun­try will remain. What kind of coun­try will be it be then?”

    The mono­logue and its sweep­ing anti-elit­ism drove a wedge between con­ser­v­a­tive writ­ers. The Amer­i­can Conservative’s Rod Dreher wrote of Carlson’s mono­logue, “A man or woman who can talk like that with con­vic­tion could become pres­i­dent. Vot­ing for a con­ser­v­a­tive can­di­date like that would be the first affir­ma­tive vote I’ve ever cast for pres­i­dent.” Oth­er con­ser­v­a­tive com­men­ta­tors scoffed. Ben Shapiro wrote in Nation­al Review that Carlson’s mono­logue sound­ed far more like Sens. Bernie Sanders or Eliz­a­beth War­ren than, say, Ronald Rea­gan.

    I spoke with Carl­son by phone this week to dis­cuss his mono­logue and its eco­nom­ic — and cul­tur­al — mean­ing. He agreed that his mono­logue was rem­i­nis­cent of War­ren, ref­er­enc­ing her 2003 book The Two-Income Trap: Why Mid­dle-Class Par­ents Are Grow­ing Broke. “There were parts of the book that I dis­agree with, of course,” he told me. “But there are parts of it that are real­ly impor­tant and true. And nobody want­ed to have that con­ver­sa­tion.”

    Carl­son want­ed to be clear: He’s just ask­ing ques­tions. “I’m not an eco­nom­ic advis­er or a politi­cian. I’m not a think tank fel­low. I’m just a talk show host,” he said, telling me that all he wants is to ask “the basic ques­tions you would ask about any pol­i­cy.” But he wants to ask those ques­tions about what he calls the “reli­gious faith” of mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism, one he believes elites — “mer­ce­nar­ies who feel no long-term oblig­a­tion to the peo­ple they rule” — have put ahead of “nor­mal peo­ple.”

    But whether or not he likes it, Carl­son is an impor­tant voice in con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­tics. His show is among the most-watched tele­vi­sion pro­grams in Amer­i­ca. And his rais­ing ques­tions about mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism and the free mar­ket mat­ters.

    “What does [free mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism] get us?” he said in our call. “What kind of coun­try do you want to live in? If you put these poli­cies into effect, what will you have in 10 years?”

    Pop­ulism on the right is gain­ing, again

    Carl­son is hard­ly the first right-lean­ing fig­ure to make a pitch for pop­ulism, even tan­gen­tial­ly, in the third year of Don­ald Trump, whose pop­ulist-lite pres­i­den­tial can­di­da­cy and pres­i­den­cy Carl­son told me he views as “the smoke alarm ... telling you the build­ing is on fire, and unless you fig­ure out how to put the flames out, it will con­sume it.”

    Pop­ulism is a rhetor­i­cal approach that sep­a­rates “the peo­ple” from elites. In the words of Cas Mud­de, a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Geor­gia, it divides the coun­try into “two homoge­nous and antag­o­nis­tic groups: the pure peo­ple on the one end and the cor­rupt elite on the oth­er.” Pop­ulist rhetoric has a long his­to­ry in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, serv­ing as the focal point of numer­ous pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns and pow­er­ing William Jen­nings Bryan to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent in 1896. Trump bor­rowed some of that approach for his 2016 cam­paign but in office has gov­erned as a fair­ly ortho­dox eco­nom­ic con­ser­v­a­tive, thus demon­strat­ing the demand for pop­ulism on the right with­out real­ly pro­vid­ing the sup­ply and cre­at­ing con­di­tions for fur­ther fer­ment.

    When right-lean­ing pun­dit Ann Coul­ter spoke with Bre­it­bart Radio about Trump’s Tues­day evening Oval Office address to the nation regard­ing bor­der wall fund­ing, she said she want­ed to hear him say some­thing like, “You know, you say a lot of wild things on the cam­paign trail. I’m speak­ing to big ral­lies. But I want to talk to Amer­i­ca about a seri­ous prob­lem that is affect­ing the least among us, the work­ing-class blue-col­lar work­ers”:

    Coul­ter urged Trump to bring up over­dose deaths from hero­in in order to speak to the “work­ing class” and to blame the fact that work­ing-class wages have stalled, if not fall­en, in the last 20 years on immi­gra­tion. She encour­aged Trump to declare, “This is a nation­al emer­gency for the peo­ple who don’t have lob­by­ists in Wash­ing­ton.”

    Oca­sio-Cortez wants a 70–80% income tax on the rich. I agree! Start with the Koch Bros. — and also make it WEALTH tax.— Ann Coul­ter (@AnnCoulter) Jan­u­ary 4, 2019

    These sen­ti­ments have even pit­ted pop­u­lar Fox News hosts against each oth­er.

    Sean Han­ni­ty warned his audi­ence that New York Rep. Alexan­dria Ocasio-Cortez’s eco­nom­ic poli­cies would mean that “the rich peo­ple won’t be buy­ing boats that they like recre­ation­al­ly, they’re not going to be tak­ing expen­sive vaca­tions any­more.” But Carl­son agreed when I said his mono­logue was some­what rem­i­nis­cent of Ocasio-Cortez’s past com­ments on the econ­o­my, and how even a strong econ­o­my was still leav­ing work­ing-class Amer­i­cans behind.

    “I’m just say­ing as a mat­ter of fact,” he told me, “a coun­try where a shrink­ing per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion is tak­ing home an ever-expand­ing pro­por­tion of the mon­ey is not a recipe for a sta­ble soci­ety. It’s not.”

    Carl­son told me he want­ed to be clear: He is not a pop­ulist. But he believes some ver­sion of pop­ulism is nec­es­sary to pre­vent a full-scale polit­i­cal revolt or the onset of social­ism. Using Theodore Roo­sevelt as an exam­ple of a pres­i­dent who rec­og­nized that labor needs eco­nom­ic pow­er, he told me, “Unless you want some­thing real­ly extreme to hap­pen, you need to take this seri­ous­ly and fig­ure out how to pro­tect aver­age peo­ple from these remark­ably pow­er­ful forces that have been unleashed.”

    “I think pop­ulism is poten­tial­ly real­ly dis­rup­tive. What I’m say­ing is that pop­ulism is a symp­tom of some­thing being wrong,” he told me. “Again, pop­ulism is a smoke alarm; do not ignore it.”

    But Carlson’s brand of pop­ulism, and the pop­ulist sen­ti­ments sweep­ing the Amer­i­can right, aren’t just focused on the cur­rent state of income inequal­i­ty in Amer­i­ca. Carl­son tack­led a big­ger idea: that mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism and the “elites” whom he argues are its major dri­vers aren’t work­ing. The free mar­ket isn’t work­ing for fam­i­lies, or indi­vid­u­als, or kids. In his mono­logue, Carl­son railed against lib­er­tar­i­an eco­nom­ics and even pay­day loans, say­ing, “If you care about Amer­i­ca, you ought to oppose the exploita­tion of Amer­i­cans, whether it’s hap­pen­ing in the inner city or on Wall Street” — sound­ing very much like Sanders or War­ren on the left.

    Carlson’s argu­ment that “mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism is not a reli­gion” is of course old hat on the left, but it’s also been bub­bling on the right for years now. When Nation­al Review writer Kevin Williamson wrote a 2016 op-ed about how rur­al whites “failed them­selves,” he faced a mas­sive back­lash in the Trumpi­er quar­ters of the right. And these sen­ti­ments are becom­ing increas­ing­ly potent at a time when Amer­i­cans can see both a boom­ing stock mar­ket and per­haps their own fam­i­ly mem­bers strug­gling to get by.

    Miss­ing from near­ly all dis­cus­sions of “why aren’t mil­len­ni­als hav­ing babies” is the fact that the thick, local, extend­ed family—which *dras­ti­cal­ly* reduces the finan­cial and emo­tion­al cost of hav­ing children—has almost com­plete­ly col­lapsed in the West, par­tic­u­lar­ly among whites.— Jere­my McLel­lan (@JeremyMcLellan) Jan­u­ary 8, 2019

    At the Fed­er­al­ist, writer Kirk Jing wrote of Carlson’s mono­logue, and a response to it by Nation­al Review colum­nist David French:

    Our soci­ety is less French’s Amer­i­ca, the idea, and more Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth” (involv­ing a very dif­fer­ent French). The low­est are stripped of even social dig­ni­ty and deemed unwor­thy of life. In Real Amer­i­ca, wages are stag­nant, life expectan­cy is crash­ing, peo­ple are flee­ing the work­force, fam­i­lies are crum­bling, and trust in the insti­tu­tions on top are at all-time lows. To French, hold­ing any lead­ers of those insti­tu­tions respon­si­ble for their errors is “vic­tim­hood pop­ulism” ... The Right must do bet­ter if it seeks to gov­ern a real Amer­i­ca that exists out­side of its fan­tasies.

    ...

    Who is “they”?

    And that’s the point where Carl­son and a host of oth­ers on the right who have begun to chal­lenge the con­ser­v­a­tive movement’s ortho­doxy on free mar­kets — peo­ple rang­ing from occa­sion­al­ly men­da­cious bomb-throw­ers like Coul­ter to writ­ers like Michael Bren­dan Dougher­ty — sep­a­rate them­selves from many of those mak­ing those exact same argu­ments on the left.

    When Carl­son talks about the “nor­mal peo­ple” he wants to save from nefar­i­ous elites, he is talk­ing, usu­al­ly, about a spe­cif­ic group of “nor­mal peo­ple” — white work­ing-class Amer­i­cans who are the “real” vic­tims of cap­i­tal­ism, or mar­i­jua­na legal­iza­tion, or immi­gra­tion poli­cies.

    In this telling, white work­ing-class Amer­i­cans who once relied on a man­u­fac­tur­ing econ­o­my that doesn’t look the way it did in 1955 are the unwill­ing pawns of elites. It’s not their fault that, in Carlson’s view, mar­riage is inac­ces­si­ble to them, or that mar­i­jua­na legal­iza­tion means more teens are smok­ing weed (this prob­a­bly isn’t true). Some­one, or some­thing, did this to them. In Carlson’s view, it’s the respon­si­bil­i­ty of politi­cians: Our eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion, and the plight of the white work­ing class, is “the prod­uct of a series of con­scious deci­sions that the Con­gress made.”

    The crit­i­cism of Carlson’s mono­logue has large­ly focused on how he devi­ates from the free mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism that con­ser­v­a­tives believe is the solu­tion to pover­ty, not the cre­ator of pover­ty. To ortho­dox con­ser­v­a­tives, pover­ty is the result of poor deci­sion mak­ing or a lack of virtue that can’t be solved by gov­ern­ment pro­grams or an anti-elite polit­i­cal plat­form — and they say Carlson’s argu­ment that elites are in some way respon­si­ble for dwin­dling mar­riage rates doesn’t make sense.

    But in French’s response to Carl­son, he goes deep­er, writ­ing that to embrace Carlson’s brand of pop­ulism is to sup­port “vic­tim­hood pop­ulism,” one that makes white work­ing-class Amer­i­cans into the vic­tims of an unde­fined “they”:

    Carl­son is advanc­ing a form of vic­tim-pol­i­tics pop­ulism that takes a series of tec­ton­ic cul­tur­al changes — civ­il rights, women’s rights, a tech­no­log­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion as sig­nif­i­cant as the indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion, the mass-scale loss of reli­gious faith, the sex­u­al rev­o­lu­tion, etc. — and turns the neg­a­tive or chal­leng­ing aspects of those changes into an angry tale of what they are doing to you.

    And that was my biggest ques­tion about Carlson’s mono­logue, and the flur­ry of respons­es to it, and sup­port for it: When oth­er groups (say, black Amer­i­cans) have point­ed to sys­temic inequities with­in the eco­nom­ic sys­tem that have result­ed in pover­ty and fam­i­ly dys­func­tion, the response from many on the right has been, shall we say, less than enthu­si­as­tic.

    This piece on Carl­son’s tra­di­tion­al­ist cri­tique of mar­ket fun­da­men­tal­ism is real­ly good https://t.co/xHHzi6kkO6— ?? End­less Zoom Meet­ing ?? (@AdamSerwer) Jan­u­ary 9, 2019

    Yet white work­ing-class pover­ty receives, from Carl­son and oth­ers, far more sym­pa­thy. And con­ser­v­a­tives are far more like­ly to iden­ti­fy with a crit­i­cism of “elites” when they believe those elites are respon­si­ble for the expan­sion of trans rights or creep­ing sec­u­lar­ism than the wealthy and pow­er­ful peo­ple who are invest­ing in pri­vate pris­ons or an expan­sion of the mil­i­ta­riza­tion of police. Carlson’s net­work, Fox News, and Carl­son him­self have fre­quent­ly blast­ed left­ist crit­ics of mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism and efforts to fight inequal­i­ty.

    I asked Carl­son about this, as his show is fre­quent­ly cen­tered on the tur­moils caused by “demo­graph­ic change.” He said that for decades, “con­ser­v­a­tives just wrote [black eco­nom­ic strug­gles] off as a cul­ture of pover­ty,” a line he includes in his mono­logue.

    He added that regard­ing black pover­ty, “it’s pret­ty easy when you’ve got 12 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion going through some­thing to feel like, ‘Well, there must be ... there’s some­thing wrong with that cul­ture.’ Which is actu­al­ly a tricky thing to say because it’s in part true, but what you’re miss­ing, what I missed, what I think a lot of peo­ple missed, was that the eco­nom­ic sys­tem you’re liv­ing under affects your cul­ture.”

    Carl­son said that grow­ing up in Wash­ing­ton, DC, and spend­ing time in rur­al Maine, he didn’t real­ize until recent­ly that the same pover­ty and decay he observed in the Wash­ing­ton of the 1980s was also tak­ing place in rur­al (and major­i­ty-white) Maine. “I was think­ing, ‘Wait a sec­ond ... maybe when the jobs go away the cul­ture changes,’” he told me, “And the rea­son I didn’t think of it before was because I was so blind­ed by this lib­er­tar­i­an eco­nom­ic pro­pa­gan­da that I couldn’t get past my own assump­tions about eco­nom­ics.” (For the record, lib­er­tar­i­ans have cri­tiqued Carlson’s mono­logue as well.)

    Carl­son told me that beyond chang­ing our tax code, he has no major poli­cies in mind. “I‘m not even mak­ing the case for an eco­nom­ic sys­tem in par­tic­u­lar,” he told me. “All I’m say­ing is don’t act like the way things are is some­how ordained by God or a func­tion or raw nature.”

    And clear­ly, our mar­ket econ­o­my isn’t dri­ven by God or nature, as the stock mar­ket soars and unem­ploy­ment dips and yet even those on the right are notic­ing lengthy peri­ods of wage stag­na­tion and dying lit­tle towns across the coun­try. But what to do about those dying lit­tle towns, and which dying towns we care about and which we don’t, and, most impor­tant­ly, whose fault it is that those towns are dying in the first place — those are all ques­tions Carl­son leaves to the view­er to answer.

    ————-

    “Tuck­er Carl­son has sparked the most inter­est­ing debate in con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­tics” by Jane Coas­ton; Vox; 01/10/2019

    Carl­son told me he want­ed to be clear: He is not a pop­ulist. But he believes some ver­sion of pop­ulism is nec­es­sary to pre­vent a full-scale polit­i­cal revolt or the onset of social­ism. Using Theodore Roo­sevelt as an exam­ple of a pres­i­dent who rec­og­nized that labor needs eco­nom­ic pow­er, he told me, “Unless you want some­thing real­ly extreme to hap­pen, you need to take this seri­ous­ly and fig­ure out how to pro­tect aver­age peo­ple from these remark­ably pow­er­ful forces that have been unleashed.””

    He want­ed to be clear he’s not a pop­ulist. He’s just very aware of the poten­tial pop­ulism has to change a coun­try and clear­ly wants to get out ahead of it. Get ahead of the pop­ulism dri­ven by the spec­tac­u­lar fail­ure of decades of the exact same right-wing eco­nom­ic poli­cies he spent decades sup­port­ing. Get ahead of the pop­ulism by adopt­ing the kind of rhetoric one would expect from an Eliz­a­beth War­ren or Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, but twist­ing it so it’s just about the work­ing-class white Amer­i­cans that Trump appeals to. Twist it so the eco­nom­ic poli­cies that destroyed work­ing class white Amer­i­ca are cast as part of a larg­er cor­po­ratist left-wing elit­ist con­spir­a­cy to destroy Amer­i­ca with issues like trans rights or creep­ing sec­u­lar­ism. It’s Machi­avel­lian ‘pop­ulism’:

    ...
    “I think pop­ulism is poten­tial­ly real­ly dis­rup­tive. What I’m say­ing is that pop­ulism is a symp­tom of some­thing being wrong,” he told me. “Again, pop­ulism is a smoke alarm; do not ignore it.”

    But Carlson’s brand of pop­ulism, and the pop­ulist sen­ti­ments sweep­ing the Amer­i­can right, aren’t just focused on the cur­rent state of income inequal­i­ty in Amer­i­ca. Carl­son tack­led a big­ger idea: that mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism and the “elites” whom he argues are its major dri­vers aren’t work­ing. The free mar­ket isn’t work­ing for fam­i­lies, or indi­vid­u­als, or kids. In his mono­logue, Carl­son railed against lib­er­tar­i­an eco­nom­ics and even pay­day loans, say­ing, “If you care about Amer­i­ca, you ought to oppose the exploita­tion of Amer­i­cans, whether it’s hap­pen­ing in the inner city or on Wall Street” — sound­ing very much like Sanders or War­ren on the left.

    ...

    When Carl­son talks about the “nor­mal peo­ple” he wants to save from nefar­i­ous elites, he is talk­ing, usu­al­ly, about a spe­cif­ic group of “nor­mal peo­ple” — white work­ing-class Amer­i­cans who are the “real” vic­tims of cap­i­tal­ism, or mar­i­jua­na legal­iza­tion, or immi­gra­tion poli­cies.

    ...

    Yet white work­ing-class pover­ty receives, from Carl­son and oth­ers, far more sym­pa­thy. And con­ser­v­a­tives are far more like­ly to iden­ti­fy with a crit­i­cism of “elites” when they believe those elites are respon­si­ble for the expan­sion of trans rights or creep­ing sec­u­lar­ism than the wealthy and pow­er­ful peo­ple who are invest­ing in pri­vate pris­ons or an expan­sion of the mil­i­ta­riza­tion of police. Carlson’s net­work, Fox News, and Carl­son him­self have fre­quent­ly blast­ed left­ist crit­ics of mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism and efforts to fight inequal­i­ty.

    I asked Carl­son about this, as his show is fre­quent­ly cen­tered on the tur­moils caused by “demo­graph­ic change.” He said that for decades, “con­ser­v­a­tives just wrote [black eco­nom­ic strug­gles] off as a cul­ture of pover­ty,” a line he includes in his mono­logue.

    He added that regard­ing black pover­ty, “it’s pret­ty easy when you’ve got 12 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion going through some­thing to feel like, ‘Well, there must be ... there’s some­thing wrong with that cul­ture.’ Which is actu­al­ly a tricky thing to say because it’s in part true, but what you’re miss­ing, what I missed, what I think a lot of peo­ple missed, was that the eco­nom­ic sys­tem you’re liv­ing under affects your cul­ture.”
    )
    ...

    And note how did­n’t have any par­tic­u­lar pol­i­cy changes in mind beyond tweak­ing the tax code. A tax code that Trump made even more dis­tort­ed for the super-rich. It’s an exam­ple of how super­fi­cial Carl­son’s ‘pop­ulism’ tru­ly is. He makes pop­ulist-like nois­es but that’s it. Because his actu­al under­ly­ing mes­sage to his audi­ence is that real solu­tion to their eco­nom­ic woes is to some­how com­plete­ly polit­i­cal­ly destroy ‘the left’ that’s already con­spir­ing to destroy con­ser­v­a­tive Amer­i­ca, and then every­thing will work out:

    ...
    Carl­son told me that beyond chang­ing our tax code, he has no major poli­cies in mind. “I‘m not even mak­ing the case for an eco­nom­ic sys­tem in par­tic­u­lar,” he told me. “All I’m say­ing is don’t act like the way things are is some­how ordained by God or a func­tion or raw nature.”
    ...

    And it’s cru­cial to keep in mind that, while Carl­son may have implic­it­ly voiced some tepid crit­i­cism of long-stand­ing Repub­li­can mantras when he went on the anti-neo-lib­er­al­ism rant that prompt­ed the above inter­view, if you watch his reg­u­lar show such rants are pret­ty rare. Far more com­mon are rants about ‘lib­er­al coastal elites’ who are dead set on sub­ju­gat­ing the ‘nor­mal Amer­i­cans’ with polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and immi­gra­tion in league with the Big Cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca. A near dai­ly dis­gust­ing dis­play or Machi­avel­lian ‘pop­ulism’ that real­ly is designed to con­fuse and mis­di­rect the audi­ence while pro­mot­ing an under­ly­ing nar­ra­tive that real­ly is basi­cal­ly Alex Jones with­out the repeat­ed ‘Illu­mi­nati’ or ‘Zion­ist’ ref­er­ences. Machi­avel­lian ‘pop­ulism’ made all the Machi­avel­lian by the fact that Carl­son, the real Carl­son, is him­self a proud self-described elit­ist chau­vin­ist with a long track record of lit­er­al­ly jok­ing about beat­ing his ser­vants:

    The Inter­cept

    Tuck­er Carl­son on Rupert Mur­doch in 2010 Radio Seg­ment: “I’m 100 Per­cent His Bitch”
    “I only have, you know, Amer­i­can, white ser­vants,” Carl­son said in 2009. “It’s not because I’m racist, it’s because I’m not. It’s because I feel bet­ter beat­ing them.”

    Aída Chávez
    March 12 2019, 4:27 p.m.

    Tuck­er Carl­son, who recent­ly brand­ed him­self as a lead­ing anti-elit­ist, had pre­vi­ous­ly labeled him­self as an “out-of-the-clos­et elit­ist,” and sep­a­rate­ly said that he is “100 per­cent [Rupert Murdoch’s] bitch.” The two quips are part of a trove of new­ly unearthed record­ings from 2008 to 2011 that haven’t pre­vi­ous­ly been report­ed.

    The Fox News host made the com­ments on the shock-jock radio pro­gram “The Bub­ba the Love Sponge Show,” where he appeared reg­u­lar­ly from 2006 to 2011. They are stark­ly dif­fer­ent from Carlson’s recent attempts to brand him­self as an anti-elite, anti-cap­i­tal­ist com­men­ta­tor on “Tuck­er Carl­son Tonight,” one of the most-watched shows on cable news.

    In Jan­u­ary, Carl­son, who fre­quent­ly traf­fics in white nation­al­ist rhetoric, deliv­ered a 15-minute mono­logue in which he railed against America’s rul­ing class. Carl­son slammed both par­ties, say­ing that Amer­i­cans “are ruled by mer­ce­nar­ies who feel no long-term oblig­a­tion” to the peo­ple they rule, and that Repub­li­can lead­ers would have to be fools to wor­ship mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism. “Under our cur­rent sys­tem, an Amer­i­can who works for a salary pays about twice the tax rate of some­one who’s liv­ing off inher­it­ed mon­ey and doesn’t work at all,” he said. “We tax cap­i­tal at half of what we tax labor. It’s a sweet deal if you work in finance, as many of our rich peo­ple do.”

    Over the last two days, Media Mat­ters for Amer­i­ca, a watch­dog orga­ni­za­tion, has released a trove of audio that includ­ed racist and misog­y­nis­tic com­ments Carl­son made on the same radio pro­gram. In those seg­ments, Carl­son appeared to defend statu­to­ry rape, called for the elim­i­na­tion of rape shield laws, and made sug­ges­tive com­ments about under­age girls. He has so far refused to apol­o­gize, instead flip­pant­ly say­ing that he was caught “say­ing some­thing naughty.”

    “Rather than express the usu­al rit­u­al con­tri­tion, how about this: I’m on tele­vi­sion every week­night live for an hour,” Carl­son said in a tweet­ed state­ment. “If you want to know what I think, you can watch.” On his pro­gram Mon­day night, Carl­son said Fox News is stand­ing behind him despite the resur­faced record­ings. The net­work con­firmed this to be true, but it hasn’t released an offi­cial state­ment say­ing so. Fox News did not return The Intercept’s request for com­ment.

    Carl­son has worked for Fox News since 2009, first as an ana­lyst and then as a host of the week­end show “Fox & Friends.” In 2016, he got his own week­night show on the cable net­work, where he report­ed­ly rakes in mil­lions of dol­lars a year. Dur­ing his radio appear­ances over the last decade, Carl­son boast­ed about his wealth, which he amassed as a trust-fund kid.

    When asked on “Bub­ba the Love Sponge” in 2008 how he pays his bills, Carl­son replied that he’s “extra­or­di­nar­i­ly loaded” just from “inher­i­tance from my num­ber of trust funds.”

    “I’ll go out and beat some ser­vants, I’ll wrap my Lam­borgh­i­ni around a tree, go pick up a kilo or two, you know, just like nor­mal stuff,” he added.

    “You’re a trust fund baby, are you not?” the host asked. “Oh com­plete­ly, I’ve nev­er need­ed to work, yeah,” Carl­son said. “I mean it’s all just — the whole cable news thing … it was just like a phase I was going through.”

    In anoth­er instance, the con­ver­sa­tion on the show cen­tered on Fox chair Rupert Murdoch’s deci­sion to pull ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive host Sean Han­ni­ty from broad­cast­ing at a Cincin­nati tea par­ty ral­ly in 2010. “I’m 100 per­cent [Murdoch’s] bitch,” Carl­son said. “What­ev­er Mr. Mur­doch says, I do. … I would be hon­ored if he would cane me the way I cane my work­ers, my ser­vants.”

    In a 2009 radio seg­ment, Carl­son joked about grow­ing up in a cas­tle, say­ing that one thing you learn when you “look out across the moat every day at the hun­gry peas­ants in the vil­lage” is that “you don’t wan­na stoke envy among the pro­le­tari­at.” The host then asked if hav­ing an African-Amer­i­can “shin­ing the rims on your Bent­ley” doesn’t invoke envy, to which Carl­son replied, “I only have, you know, Amer­i­can, white ser­vants.” He explained, “It’s not because I’m racist, it’s because I’m not. It’s because I feel bet­ter beat­ing them, you know what I mean?” Moments before the back-and-forth, Carl­son was talk­ing about how he had just been hired at Fox News.

    “But see, I’m an out-of-the-clos­et elit­ist,” Carl­son said in a 2008 seg­ment. “I don’t run around pre­tend­ing to be a man of the peo­ple; I’m absolute­ly not a man of the peo­ple, at all.”

    Carlson’s “Bub­ba the Love Sponge Show” appear­ances put into stark relief a melt­down the con­ser­v­a­tive host had just weeks ago after being chal­lenged about his sta­tus as a mem­ber of the elite, mean­while rail­ing against the elites. Carl­son had invit­ed Dutch his­to­ri­an Rut­ger Breg­man onto his week­night show after Breg­man made an appear­ance at this year’s Davos sum­mit. Breg­man accused the host of being bought by the Mur­doch fam­i­ly and the Cato Insti­tute, a lib­er­tar­i­an think tank where Carl­son was a fel­low until 2015. In the unaired inter­view, which was leaked and pub­lished by NowThis, Breg­man called Carl­son “a mil­lion­aire fund­ed by bil­lion­aires” who is “part of the prob­lem.” Carl­son respond­ed by call­ing him a “tiny brain” and “moron” and abrupt­ly end­ing the inter­view. After the tape leaked, the show’s senior exec­u­tive pro­duc­er said they chose not to air the inter­view because they were dis­ap­point­ed with the seg­ment and didn’t want to waste the audience’s time.

    In a dump of tran­scripts and audio on Mon­day night, Media Mat­ters released big­ot­ed remarks Carl­son made about Iraq, Afghanistan, Mus­lims, and immi­grants. In a 2006 appear­ance, Carl­son said he has “zero sym­pa­thy” for Iraqis because they “don’t use toi­let paper or forks,” adding that they should “just shut the fu ck up and obey” us. He also called Iraqis “semi­lit­er­ate prim­i­tive mon­keys.”

    ...

    ————–

    “Tuck­er Carl­son on Rupert Mur­doch in 2010 Radio Seg­ment: “I’m 100 Per­cent His Bitch”” by Aída Chávez; The Inter­cept; 03/12/2019

    “In anoth­er instance, the con­ver­sa­tion on the show cen­tered on Fox chair Rupert Murdoch’s deci­sion to pull ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive host Sean Han­ni­ty from broad­cast­ing at a Cincin­nati tea par­ty ral­ly in 2010. “I’m 100 per­cent [Murdoch’s] bitch,” Carl­son said. “What­ev­er Mr. Mur­doch says, I do. … I would be hon­ored if he would cane me the way I cane my work­ers, my ser­vants.”

    Jokes about can­ing his ser­vants in 2010. Yes, these were obvi­ous­ly just jokes. But tak­en in the con­text of Carl­son’s life and career they sure did­n’t seem like inten­tion­al­ly iron­ic jokes. More like just the cru­el ‘punch­ing down’ elit­ist humor that would be exact­ly the kind of humor that would have been Carl­son’s ‘brand’ before he made his sud­den ‘pop­ulist’ shift a few years ago.

    And then there’s the 2009 ‘joke’ about how, grow­ing up wealthy, Carl­son learned that, “you don’t wan­na stoke envy among the pro­le­tari­at.” A les­son he’s demon­stra­bly apply­ing today. He lit­er­al­ly explained it just like in the above inter­view. He’s not a pop­ulist, but he knows what pop­ulism can do, so he’s get­ting out ahead of it. With Alex Jones-style con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries that blame all of life’s prob­lems on a left-wing com­mu­nist Satan­ic bil­lion­aires:

    ...
    In a 2009 radio seg­ment, Carl­son joked about grow­ing up in a cas­tle, say­ing that one thing you learn when you “look out across the moat every day at the hun­gry peas­ants in the vil­lage” is that “you don’t wan­na stoke envy among the pro­le­tari­at.” The host then asked if hav­ing an African-Amer­i­can “shin­ing the rims on your Bent­ley” doesn’t invoke envy, to which Carl­son replied, “I only have, you know, Amer­i­can, white ser­vants.” He explained, “It’s not because I’m racist, it’s because I’m not. It’s because I feel bet­ter beat­ing them, you know what I mean?” Moments before the back-and-forth, Carl­son was talk­ing about how he had just been hired at Fox News.

    “But see, I’m an out-of-the-clos­et elit­ist,” Carl­son said in a 2008 seg­ment. “I don’t run around pre­tend­ing to be a man of the peo­ple; I’m absolute­ly not a man of the peo­ple, at all.”
    ...

    And that’s why the Machi­avel­lian nature of Carl­son’s ‘pop­ulism’ today is so chill­ing. He real­ly is an out-of-the-clos­et elit­ist. His words, from not that long ago. And he real­ly is a fake pop­ulist. Again, his own damn words just last year. It’s not hard to rec­on­cile these two seem­ing­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry ver­sions of Tuck­er. Tuck­er Carl­son has made it abun­dant­ly clear over the years that he does­n’t actu­al­ly respect the rab­ble, but he does fear the rab­ble. New Tuck­er is just Old Tuck­er in pop­ulist drag, hop­ing to redi­rect and even­tu­al­ly lead the inevitable torch­es and pitch­forks.

    It’s the kind of fear that must be shared by far more out-of-the-clos­et elit­ist than just Carl­son. After all, if you suc­cess­ful­ly loot a soci­ety you do have to won­der about the response. He was­n’t wrong about the poten­tial pow­er of pop­ulism and it’s not a stu­pid move for the elite bil­lion­aire to try and get ahead of it. Carl­son’s fake pop­ulism makes log­i­cal sense. Log­i­cal deeply Machi­avel­lian sense. Just as Rupert Mur­doch giv­ing him his prime time plat­form makes per­fect log­i­cal Machi­avel­lian sense. It’s worked, after all. He has the most influ­en­tial show on cable TV. Mil­lions of poor Amer­i­cans who are offered noth­ing but doom from Repub­li­can poli­cies are con­vinced that the par­ty of the bil­lion­aires is the only thing that will pro­tect them from the Satan­ic com­mu­nist left­ist cabal. Bar­ring Trump, or Alex Jones, it’s hard to think of some­one more influ­en­tial with con­tem­po­rary con­ser­v­a­tives than Tuck­er Carl­son, a proven and skilled Machi­avel­lian ‘pop­ulist’. And that’s why any dis­cus­sion of what comes next for the Trumpi­fied (or Gin­griched) Repub­li­can Par­ty has to include a dis­cus­sion of the role Tuck­er Carl­son will play. If Alex Jones is the mod­ern day con­ser­v­a­tive id, Tuck­er Carl­son is that id’s main­stream per­sona. The future of the GOP isn’t clear, but what is clear is that it’s going to be deeply ‘pop­ulist’ in form and deeply Machi­avel­lian in real­i­ty.

    Carlson/Jones 2024!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 7, 2020, 5:23 pm
  3. I’ll believe Trump is out when I see him turn­ing green in his cof­fin with a stake through his heart, a mouth­ful of gar­lic and three sil­ver bul­lets in his head.... Unfor­tu­nate­ly the doghan­dlers will just move on to the next.....

    Posted by lou e | November 9, 2020, 9:42 am
  4. Tim­ing is every­thing: Pres­i­dent Trump just fired the Sec­re­tary of Defense, Mark Esper. And while this fir­ing had been pre­dict­ed for months, with many expect­ing Esper leave on his own before the 2020 elec­tion, it’s hard to think of a time when this par­tic­u­lar move would have been more unset­tling. That’s in part because of the tim­ing, with this replace­ment tak­ing place right when it looks like Pres­i­dent Trump might be plan­ning some sort of coup. But also because the source of Trump’s ten­sions with Esper appears to be heav­i­ly dri­ven by Esper dis­agree­ment with Trump call to invoke the Insur­rec­tion Act and use of the mil­i­tary against pro­tes­tors. So right when it looks like Trump might be very inter­est­ed in using the mil­i­tary to quell protests over his refusal to leave office we have Trump replac­ing the head of the Pen­ta­gon was­n’t enthu­si­as­tic about his ear­li­er attempts to use the mil­i­tary to quell protests. We knew the fir­ing of Esper was just at mat­ter of time but, wow, is that some omi­nous tim­ing.

    So it’s worth not­ing anoth­er major Pen­ta­gon posi­tion that just opened up: James Ander­son, the act­ing under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy, just resigned from the influ­en­tial Pen­ta­gon pol­i­cy posi­tion in response to Esper’s fir­ing. Who will replace him? Antho­ny Tata, a guy who Trump nom­i­nat­ed for the posi­tion ear­li­er this year. So why did­n’t Tata get the job? Well, CNN unearthed a bunch of tweets that were inflam­ma­to­ry enough that even the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Sen­ate soured on him. Tweets that includ­ed call­ing Oba­ma a “ter­ror­ist” and a “Manchuri­an Can­di­date”. It also turns out that Tata is a reg­u­lar on Fox News, of course. So Tata is exact­ly the kind of per­son who is gross­ly unqual­i­fied for such a posi­tion in gen­er­al but excels at the one key qual­i­fi­ca­tion: Tata is extreme­ly ‘Trumpian’ and appears to be the kind of per­son who won’t have qualms fol­low­ing Trumpian orders. And now he’s like­ly going to get this cru­cial Pen­ta­gon job right when it looks like Trump might be in the mood for a coup:

    Politi­co

    Pentagon’s top pol­i­cy offi­cial resigns after clash­ing with the White House

    The depar­ture of James Ander­son, act­ing under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy, poten­tial­ly paves the way for Antho­ny Tata to take over the pol­i­cy shop.

    By LARA SELIGMAN and DANIEL LIPPMAN
    11/10/2020 10:34 AM EST

    The Pentagon’s act­ing pol­i­cy chief resigned on Tues­day after falling out of favor with the White House, rais­ing fears of a post-elec­tion purge at the Defense Depart­ment.

    The depar­ture of James Ander­son, the act­ing under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy, poten­tial­ly paves the way for Antho­ny Tata, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s con­tro­ver­sial nom­i­nee for the top pol­i­cy job who was pulled from con­sid­er­a­tion due to Islam­o­pho­bic tweets, to take over the pol­i­cy shop. Ander­son­’s res­ig­na­tion also comes one day after Defense Sec­re­tary Mark Esper was fired by Trump, also over pol­i­cy dis­agree­ments.

    Ander­son, who was con­firmed in June as the No. 2 pol­i­cy offi­cial but has been act­ing in the top job, sub­mit­ted his let­ter of res­ig­na­tion on Tues­day morn­ing, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO. He had been expect­ed to be asked by the White House to resign in the next few days.

    “I am par­tic­u­lar­ly grate­ful to have been entrust­ed with lead­ing the ded­i­cat­ed men and women of Pol­i­cy, who play a key role in our Nation’s secu­ri­ty,” Ander­son wrote in the let­ter. “Now, as ever, our long-term suc­cess depends on adher­ing to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion all pub­lic ser­vants swear to sup­port and defend.”

    Ander­son stepped down after clash­ing with the White House per­son­nel office, accord­ing to cur­rent defense offi­cials and one for­mer defense offi­cial, who expect Ander­son will be the first of sev­er­al depar­tures in the wake of Esper’s fir­ing.

    A Pen­ta­gon spokesper­son could not imme­di­ate­ly be reached for com­ment. A White House spokesper­son said they don’t com­ment on per­son­nel.

    As one of the most senior offi­cials in the Pen­ta­gon, the under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy is the prin­ci­pal advis­er to the defense sec­re­tary on for­mu­lat­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty and defense pol­i­cy across a range of high-pro­file issues.

    Ander­son pushed back on sev­er­al Trump loy­al­ists the White House tried to install at DoD, includ­ing Frank Wuco and Rich Hig­gins, said one of the peo­ple, who like oth­ers request­ed anonymi­ty in order to dis­cuss sen­si­tive per­son­nel issues. The White House tried and failed to install Wuco, a con­tro­ver­sial for­mer talk radio host who once called Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma “a Kenyan,” as a deputy over­see­ing spe­cial oper­a­tions, and Hig­gins, a for­mer Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil staffer who pushed con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries on Twit­ter, as chief of staff for Tata.

    Ander­son has been act­ing as the Pen­tagon’s pol­i­cy chief since Feb­ru­ary, when the White House pushed out John Rood, the last per­son to be con­firmed in the job, over per­ceived insuf­fi­cient loy­al­ty to the pres­i­dent.

    Ander­son was con­firmed by the Sen­ate on June 3 in the posi­tion of deputy under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy, which had been vacant since July 2019. How­ev­er, he has con­tin­ued act­ing in the No. 1 role since the Sen­ate can­celed a con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing for the White House­’s top choice, Tata, after CNN unearthed his Islam­o­pho­bic tweets.

    Tata, who has been per­form­ing the duties of the deputy posi­tion since the sum­mer, will now like­ly slide into the No. 1 role. After the White House announced his nom­i­na­tion this year, Tata came under fire for tweets call­ing Oba­ma a “ter­ror­ist leader” and for refer­ring to Islam as the “most oppres­sive vio­lent reli­gion I know of,” among oth­er con­tro­ver­sial state­ments.

    Tata, who was a fre­quent Fox News guest, also derid­ed House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi and Rep. Max­ine Waters (D‑Calif.) on Twit­ter, and shared an arti­cle that pro­mot­ed a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that Oba­ma was a “Manchuri­an can­di­date.” Tata lat­er said he regret­ted the now-delet­ed tweets.

    The White House with­drew Tata’s nom­i­na­tion in July after the Sen­ate abrupt­ly can­celed his nom­i­na­tion hear­ing min­utes before it was set to begin. A state­ment from Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Chair Jim Inhofe (R‑Okla.) at the time said the com­mit­tee did­n’t have enough infor­ma­tion to hold the hear­ing.

    ...

    —————

    “Pentagon’s top pol­i­cy offi­cial resigns after clash­ing with the White House” by LARA SELIGMAN and DANIEL LIPPMAN; Politi­co; 11/10/2020

    Tata, who has been per­form­ing the duties of the deputy posi­tion since the sum­mer, will now like­ly slide into the No. 1 role. After the White House announced his nom­i­na­tion this year, Tata came under fire for tweets call­ing Oba­ma a “ter­ror­ist leader” and for refer­ring to Islam as the “most oppres­sive vio­lent reli­gion I know of,” among oth­er con­tro­ver­sial state­ments.”

    The guy called Oba­ma a “ter­ror­ist leader”. That alone may have been all it took for Trump to ini­tial­ly nom­i­nate Tata for the posi­tion that he now appears to be poised to get.

    But we should also note that when Trump had Tata in mind for that posi­tion when he nom­i­nat­ed Tata over the sum­mer, Trump also some­one in mind for Tata’s chief of staff: Rich Hig­gins, a fig­ure even more ‘Trumpian’ than Tata and who was fired from Trump’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil until he was fired for push­ing con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries on Twit­ter:

    ...
    As one of the most senior offi­cials in the Pen­ta­gon, the under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy is the prin­ci­pal advis­er to the defense sec­re­tary on for­mu­lat­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty and defense pol­i­cy across a range of high-pro­file issues.

    Ander­son pushed back on sev­er­al Trump loy­al­ists the White House tried to install at DoD, includ­ing Frank Wuco and Rich Hig­gins, said one of the peo­ple, who like oth­ers request­ed anonymi­ty in order to dis­cuss sen­si­tive per­son­nel issues. The White House tried and failed to install Wuco, a con­tro­ver­sial for­mer talk radio host who once called Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma “a Kenyan,” as a deputy over­see­ing spe­cial oper­a­tions, and Hig­gins, a for­mer Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil staffer who pushed con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries on Twit­ter, as chief of staff for Tata.
    ...

    So here’s a look at what we learned about Hig­gins back in July, before Tata’s nom­i­na­tion was with­drawn. We learned that Hig­gins was obsessed with charg­ing peo­ple with being Chi­nese com­mu­nist agents or com­pro­mised by com­mu­nist agents. Every­one from Black Lives Mat­ter mem­bers to Trump’s for­mer Sec­re­tary of Defense Jim Mat­tis. He also claimed that for­mer CIA direc­tor John Bren­nan issued a secret assas­si­na­tion order against Trump in 2018. And we also learned that the Trump White House was report­ed­ly the force push­ing for Hig­gins to get Tata’s chief of staff job. Tata and Hig­gins were like a pack­age deal. And Hig­gins was just one of the ‘Trumpian’ fig­ures Trump was try­ing to get installed in key posi­tions in the Pen­ta­gon over the sum­mer:

    CNN

    The White House is push­ing a con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist fired from the NSC for a top Pen­ta­gon posi­tion

    By Em Steck, Andrew Kaczyn­s­ki, Nathan McDer­mott and Zachary Cohen
    Updat­ed 3:15 PM ET, Mon July 20, 2020

    (CNN)The White House is push­ing the Depart­ment of Defense to hire a for­mer Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil staffer who has repeat­ed­ly pushed fringe con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries on Twit­ter and in media appear­ances.

    Rich Hig­gins, a for­mer aide who says he was fired from the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil in 2017 for send­ing a con­spir­a­to­r­i­al memo, is cur­rent­ly being con­sid­ered to serve as chief of staff to retired Brig. Gen. Antho­ny Tata, the White House­’s nom­i­nee for the under sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy at the Pen­ta­gon.

    A source famil­iar with the inter­nal dis­cus­sions told CNN the White House has pushed the Pen­ta­gon to hire Hig­gins and he is under con­sid­er­a­tion to be chief of staff for Tata, if Tata is con­firmed by the Sen­ate. For­eign Pol­i­cy and the Wash­ing­ton Post first report­ed on the push to hire Hig­gins.

    ...

    When asked for com­ment, Hig­gins wrote in an email to CNN, “Not going into DOD. No offer has been made,” and in a fol­low up email, “I don’t know what the WH is push­ing. Ask them. I am not at the Pen­ta­gon in any role.”

    But Hig­gins con­firmed he was under con­sid­er­a­tion in a YouTube show post­ed last night.

    “It’s still under con­sid­er­a­tion, it is true,” Hig­gins said. He added, “I think it’s the type of thing where if they get the cur­rent nom­i­nee, who is a guy named Tony Tata, into the posi­tion where I would be a direct report to him — it would prob­a­bly be worth going in.”

    CNN fol­lowed up with Hig­gins after dis­cov­er­ing the YouTube show con­firm­ing his con­sid­er­a­tion as Tata’s chief of staff. Hig­gins did not respond.

    Hig­gins, who served in the Army and lat­er in the Pen­ta­gon as a career offi­cial in the Bush and Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tions, accord­ing to his biog­ra­phy, was fired from the NSC in 2017 after author­ing a memo claim­ing that a “deep state” band of offi­cials and move­ments were oppos­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. He defined the oppo­si­tion as the media, Islamists, Black Lives Mat­ter, the ACLU, the Unit­ed Nations and cul­tur­al Marx­ists lead­ing a coor­di­nat­ed effort to dele­git­imize and sub­vert the Pres­i­dent.

    Since Hig­gins left the NSC in 2017, he has con­tin­ued to pro­mote and spread con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, accord­ing to a CNN KFile review of his media appear­ances. Hig­gins said that for­mer Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials were com­mu­nists, that the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment is “Marx­ist” and “an agent” of Chi­na, and that “left wing” orga­ni­za­tions invent­ed the term Islam­o­pho­bia only 15 years ago.

    The push to hire Hig­gins, a con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist, and Tata, a fre­quent and ardent defend­er of the Pres­i­dent on Fox News, to senior posi­tions at the Pen­ta­gon comes as the White House seeks to install loy­al­ists, many of whom hold extrem­ist views, through­out the admin­is­tra­tion.

    The White House nom­i­nat­ed Tata to become the third high­est offi­cial at the Pen­ta­gon in June, but his nom­i­na­tion has come under scruti­ny since CNN report­ed that the retired gen­er­al pushed con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and made anti-Mus­lim com­ments on social media, includ­ing call­ing for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma “a Mus­lim” and claim­ing for­mer CIA direc­tor John Bren­nan sent a cod­ed tweet to order the assas­si­na­tion of Trump in 2018.

    Like Tata, Hig­gins derid­ed Islam in tweets, writ­ing in one tweet dis­parag­ing­ly of mil­i­tary gen­er­als who said to “accept Islam and all their oth­er bullschiff [sic].”

    In anoth­er, he wrote, “Con­se­quences for ignor­ing threat doc­trine. Com­mu­nism and Islam are blind spots for the nation­al secu­ri­ty com­mu­ni­ty for decades,” and that “we who warned were called ‘racists.’ ”

    Despite almost half a dozen Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors oppos­ing Tata’s nom­i­na­tion, Tata’s nom­i­na­tion is still in play. A Con­gres­sion­al source told CNN that Tata is expect­ed to get a nom­i­na­tion hear­ing before the August recess. The com­mit­tee also expects to hold a pri­vate exec­u­tive ses­sion on Tata before the hear­ing, too.

    Spokesper­sons for the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee did not respond to requests for com­ment.

    Tata’s expect­ed nom­i­na­tion hear­ing comes amid a report that the admin­is­tra­tion is con­sid­er­ing nam­ing Tata to an act­ing role to skirt the con­fir­ma­tion process.

    A source famil­iar with Tata’s nom­i­na­tion dis­put­ed that account to CNN. “Gen. Tata looks for­ward to dis­cussing all the rel­e­vant pol­i­cy issues dur­ing his Sen­ate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing. Skirt­ing that process is not an option,” the source said.

    Tata’s White House sup­port remains strong, the source added.

    A his­to­ry of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries

    Hig­gins is a pro­lif­ic tweet­er to his more than 31,000 Twit­ter fol­low­ers, and fre­quent­ly shares con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries or fringe rhetoric on the plat­form.

    One the­o­ry Hig­gins fre­quent­ly and repeat­ed­ly false­ly claimed is that many gov­ern­ment offi­cials are com­mu­nists, specif­i­cal­ly say­ing many mem­bers of the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion and the for­mer Pres­i­dent him­self were com­mu­nists. In oth­er tweets, he claimed left wing orga­ni­za­tions or move­ments were “Marx­ist.”

    In oth­er tweets from 2019, Hig­gins repeat­ed­ly wrote that Lt. Col. Alexan­der Vin­d­man, who was a key wit­ness in Trump’s impeach­ment inquiry, was “a spy and was try­ing to spark an OP against POTUS.” There is no evi­dence Vin­d­man was a spy.

    “We had our first open­ly com­mu­nist pres­i­dent in Oba­ma,” Hig­gins said in a 2019 YouTube inter­view. “This open com­mu­nist who ran iden­ti­fy­ing him­self as a com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­er, right out of Saul Alin­sky’s book ‘Rules for Rad­i­cals’ — the com­mu­nist com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­er. You know, he brings in all these open and some, you know, some more clos­et­ed Marx­ists. I mean, Comey has a com­mu­nist his­to­ry. Bren­nan has a com­mu­nist his­to­ry. Clap­per has a com­mu­nist his­to­ry just across the board.”

    “What if com­mu­nists were in charge of CIA, FBI, DNI and the WH under Oba­ma?” he tweet­ed in Novem­ber 2019.

    Hig­gins has also tar­get­ed social jus­tice move­ments as “com­mu­nist” move­ments and encour­aged his fol­low­ers to boy­cott com­pa­nies, schools, orga­ni­za­tions and politi­cians who sup­port them. On Twit­ter, he fre­quent­ly referred to Black Lives Mat­ter as “Marx­ist rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies” and “Marx­ist.

    In anoth­er tweet, Hig­gins dis­missed the nation­wide protests held in the wake of George Floy­d’s death as “not organ­ic” and claimed that Venezuela, Cuba and “oth­er marx­ist state assets” were “oper­at­ing inside these protests.”

    After a user asked for proof, Hig­gins respond­ed, “I have sources on the ground. Does the fbi [sic]? Nope. They’re busy chas­ing white suprema­cists and run­ning a coup.”

    “The fact that Con­gress does­n’t know that BLM is an agent of com­mu­nist Chi­na does­n’t bode well for the coun­try,” he tweet­ed in June 2020.

    In June, Hig­gins linked to an arti­cle on for­mer Defense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis, sug­gest­ing Mat­tis was “com­pro­mised” by com­mu­nists in the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion.

    “In a police state many peo­ple are com­pro­mised and forced into actions that they would not nor­mal­ly per­form,” Hig­gins wrote. “One has to won­der how many of our lead­ers were com­pro­mised by the com­mu­nist Pres­i­dent, CIA Direc­tor, and FBI Direc­tor. Seri­ous ques­tion.”

    He also accused promi­nent offi­cials and insti­tu­tions of “trea­son” or “mis­pri­sion of trea­son” on Twit­ter, includ­ing the media, Con­gress and ex-offi­cials.

    “The lega­cy media is 100% part of this coup attempt and Con­gress as well as DOJ needs to take action and INDICT them as co-con­spir­a­tors in this sedi­tion and pos­si­ble trea­son,” Hig­gins wrote in Novem­ber 2019.

    In oth­er tweets, Hig­gins said for­mer CIA direc­tor John Bren­nan was guilty of trea­son and that for­mer UN Ambas­sador Nik­ki Haley was a “com­plete fraud and she knows that she is guilty of mis­pri­sion of trea­son.”

    Com­ments on Islam

    Hig­gins also made Islam­o­pho­bic com­ments and ques­tioned if Islam­o­pho­bia was a legit­i­mate con­cept.

    In a video inter­view, Hig­gins said that the “left wing polit­i­cal nar­ra­tive” invent­ed the con­cept of Islam­o­pho­bia 15 years ago to “mar­ry our per­cep­tion of who” the “ene­my” is.

    “They put togeth­er a con­cept like, for exam­ple, Islam­o­pho­bia. Fif­teen years ago, we nev­er heard the term Islam­o­pho­bia. And we have to ask our­selves, where did that come from? And when you walk it back, you real­ize that Islam­o­pho­bia is a term con­coct­ed by the gen­er­a­tors of these nar­ra­tives,” Hig­gins said.

    “The pur­pose of a term like Islam­o­pho­bia is to enforce the Islam­ic law of slan­der on West­ern­ers, to shut down crit­i­cal think­ing and rea­son that would actu­al­ly enable us to under­stand why the ene­my fights, why Omar Mateen was drawn to shoot 100 peo­ple, 49 whom passed, at a night­club in Orlan­do, Flori­da,” he added, refer­ring to the Orlan­do Pulse night­club shoot­er who killed 49 peo­ple and wound­ed at least 53 peo­ple in 2016.

    ————-

    “The White House is push­ing a con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist fired from the NSC for a top Pen­ta­gon posi­tion” by Em Steck, Andrew Kaczyn­s­ki, Nathan McDer­mott and Zachary Cohen; CNN; 07/20/2020

    “The push to hire Hig­gins, a con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist, and Tata, a fre­quent and ardent defend­er of the Pres­i­dent on Fox News, to senior posi­tions at the Pen­ta­gon comes as the White House seeks to install loy­al­ists, many of whom hold extrem­ist views, through­out the admin­is­tra­tion.

    It was­n’t the Pen­tagon’s idea to look into hir­ing Hig­gins. That idea came from the White House. And it’s no sur­prise why. Hig­gins is like a mini-Trump. Black Lives Mat­ter and the media are all Marx­ists and John Bren­nan tried to have Trump killed. Most impor­tant­ly for Trump, Hig­gins calls for the mass arrest of Trump’s oppo­nents and charg­ing them with trea­son:

    ...
    Hig­gins, who served in the Army and lat­er in the Pen­ta­gon as a career offi­cial in the Bush and Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tions, accord­ing to his biog­ra­phy, was fired from the NSC in 2017 after author­ing a memo claim­ing that a “deep state” band of offi­cials and move­ments were oppos­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. He defined the oppo­si­tion as the media, Islamists, Black Lives Mat­ter, the ACLU, the Unit­ed Nations and cul­tur­al Marx­ists lead­ing a coor­di­nat­ed effort to dele­git­imize and sub­vert the Pres­i­dent.

    Since Hig­gins left the NSC in 2017, he has con­tin­ued to pro­mote and spread con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, accord­ing to a CNN KFile review of his media appear­ances. Hig­gins said that for­mer Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials were com­mu­nists, that the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment is “Marx­ist” and “an agent” of Chi­na, and that “left wing” orga­ni­za­tions invent­ed the term Islam­o­pho­bia only 15 years ago.

    ...

    The White House nom­i­nat­ed Tata to become the third high­est offi­cial at the Pen­ta­gon in June, but his nom­i­na­tion has come under scruti­ny since CNN report­ed that the retired gen­er­al pushed con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and made anti-Mus­lim com­ments on social media, includ­ing call­ing for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma “a Mus­lim” and claim­ing for­mer CIA direc­tor John Bren­nan sent a cod­ed tweet to order the assas­si­na­tion of Trump in 2018.

    ...

    One the­o­ry Hig­gins fre­quent­ly and repeat­ed­ly false­ly claimed is that many gov­ern­ment offi­cials are com­mu­nists, specif­i­cal­ly say­ing many mem­bers of the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion and the for­mer Pres­i­dent him­self were com­mu­nists. In oth­er tweets, he claimed left wing orga­ni­za­tions or move­ments were “Marx­ist.”

    ...

    In June, Hig­gins linked to an arti­cle on for­mer Defense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis, sug­gest­ing Mat­tis was “com­pro­mised” by com­mu­nists in the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion.

    “In a police state many peo­ple are com­pro­mised and forced into actions that they would not nor­mal­ly per­form,” Hig­gins wrote. “One has to won­der how many of our lead­ers were com­pro­mised by the com­mu­nist Pres­i­dent, CIA Direc­tor, and FBI Direc­tor. Seri­ous ques­tion.”

    He also accused promi­nent offi­cials and insti­tu­tions of “trea­son” or “mis­pri­sion of trea­son” on Twit­ter, includ­ing the media, Con­gress and ex-offi­cials.

    “The lega­cy media is 100% part of this coup attempt and Con­gress as well as DOJ needs to take action and INDICT them as co-con­spir­a­tors in this sedi­tion and pos­si­ble trea­son,” Hig­gins wrote in Novem­ber 2019.
    ...

    And then there’s Hig­gin­s’s dis­missal of the George Floyd protests as being a prod­uct of “Marx­ist” gov­ern­ments like Cuba and Venezuela. It’s the kind of lan­guage that sug­gests Hig­gins would be OK with treat­ing any upcom­ing protests out­side the White House as trea­son Marx­ist coup attempts:

    ...
    Hig­gins has also tar­get­ed social jus­tice move­ments as “com­mu­nist” move­ments and encour­aged his fol­low­ers to boy­cott com­pa­nies, schools, orga­ni­za­tions and politi­cians who sup­port them. On Twit­ter, he fre­quent­ly referred to Black Lives Mat­ter as “Marx­ist rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies” and “Marx­ist.

    In anoth­er tweet, Hig­gins dis­missed the nation­wide protests held in the wake of George Floy­d’s death as “not organ­ic” and claimed that Venezuela, Cuba and “oth­er marx­ist state assets” were “oper­at­ing inside these protests.”

    After a user asked for proof, Hig­gins respond­ed, “I have sources on the ground. Does the fbi [sic]? Nope. They’re busy chas­ing white suprema­cists and run­ning a coup.”

    “The fact that Con­gress does­n’t know that BLM is an agent of com­mu­nist Chi­na does­n’t bode well for the coun­try,” he tweet­ed in June 2020.
    ...

    So if we find that Antho­ny Tata does indeed assume the role of act­ing under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy, as now expect­ed, should we also now expect that Rich Hig­gin­s’s hir­ing is just around the cor­ner? We’ll find out. All we know at this point is that Trump wants loy­al­ists in the Pen­ta­gon. Loy­al­ists with a track record of call­ing Trump’s polit­i­cal ene­mies the ene­mies of the Unit­ed States. If Trump isn’t plan­ning on a coup he’s at least plan­ning on implic­it­ly threat­en­ing one.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 10, 2020, 3:52 pm
  5. Here’s a set of updates on Pres­i­dent Trump’s last-minute high-lev­el post-elec­tion nation­al secu­ri­ty lead­er­ship changes:

    First, we’ve now learned that new Sec­re­tary of Defense, Christo­pher Miller, did indeed name Antho­ny Tata to replace James Ander­son, the act­ing under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy, after Ander­son resigned in protest of the fir­ing of Miller’s pre­de­ces­sor, Mark Esper. So Tata, some­one who called Pres­i­dent Oba­ma a “ter­ror­ist leader”, is indeed assum­ing that pow­er­ful Pen­ta­gon posi­tion.

    Poten­tial­ly far more sig­nif­i­cant was the move to make Michael Ellis—senior direc­tor for intel­li­gence on the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil and a for­mer aide to Rep. Devin Nunes, Trump’s most loy­al ser­vant on the House Intel­li­gence Committee—the gen­er­al coun­sel of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency. This deci­sion was report­ed­ly made at the behest of the White House and over the objec­tions of NSA direc­tor gene. Paul Naka­sone. So some­one with a proven track record of act­ing as a Trump polit­i­cal shill now has a senior posi­tion in the world’s most pow­er­ful intel­li­gence gath­er­ing agency.

    Beyond that, CIA Direc­tor Gina Haspel and FBI Direc­tor Christo­pher Wray are report­ed­ly on the chop­ping block, so we could see new lead­er­ship in those agen­cies in the near future. And Emi­ly Mur­phy, direc­tor of the Gen­er­al Ser­vices Admin­is­tra­tion, refused to sign the let­ter that would allow Biden’s tran­si­tion team to set up offices.

    We’ve also learned that Miller, who was hand-picked by Trump to replace Esper, has already select­ed his Senior Advi­sor: Retired Army Col. Dou­glas Mac­gre­gor. Like Atho­ny Tata, Mac­gre­gor is a reg­u­lar fig­ure on Fox News who was turned down for senior Pen­ta­gon posi­tion ear­li­er when his com­ments about Mus­lims and immi­gra­tion came to light. He was also turned down for the posi­tion of ambas­sador to Ger­many, in part because of his com­ments that Mus­lim immi­grants come to the the EU with the roles with the goal of even­tu­al­ly turn­ing Europe into an Islam­ic state. He has also go for the dec­la­ra­tion of mar­tial law on the US-Mex­i­co board­er and to “shoot peo­ple” if nec­es­sary.

    So in these final(?) months of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion we’re see­ing the fig­ures who pre­vi­ous­ly could­n’t make it through the nom­i­na­tion process for senior posi­tions final­ly get those posi­tions. Deep Trump loy­al­ists with a track records that strong­ly sug­gest they would not just be fine with some sort of Trumpian coup but enthu­si­as­tic about it:

    Slate

    Trump Is Mak­ing a Seri­ous Attempt to Hold Onto Pow­er
    After years of rail­ing against the “deep state,” he’s try­ing to build his own.

    By Fred Kaplan
    Nov 10, 2020 1:23 PM

    Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign to chal­lenge the results of the elec­tion is not mere­ly a salve to his wound­ed ego but a seri­ous attempt to stay in power—if not from inside the Oval Office for anoth­er four years, then through con­fed­er­ates well placed in what he has called the “deep state.”

    Trump’s fir­ing of Sec­re­tary of Defense Mark Esper on Mon­day was only the begin­ning of this effort—and not a long-last­ing one, but rather a spite­ful poke at a once-kow­tow­ing offi­cial who had turned into a dis­sent­ing irri­tant.

    More seri­ous is a move, report­ed in Tuesday’s Wash­ing­ton Post, to make Michael Ellis—senior direc­tor for intel­li­gence on the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil and a for­mer aide to Rep. Devin Nunes, Trump’s most loy­al ser­vant on the House Intel­li­gence Committee—the gen­er­al coun­sel of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency. This was done at the insis­tence of the White House, over the objec­tions of the NSA direc­tor, Gen. Paul Naka­sone, who pre­ferred to pro­mote a pro­fes­sion­al staffer instead.

    Two things are sig­nif­i­cant about this move. First, the gen­er­al coun­sel is a civ­il ser­vice posi­tion, mean­ing Ellis will have pro­tec­tions against being fired for polit­i­cal rea­sons (thought he could be trans­ferred to a dif­fer­ent job) under a new admin­is­tra­tion. Sec­ond, the NSA—the nation’s largest and most secre­tive intel­li­gence agency—has the tech­ni­cal tools to spy on Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and engage in oth­er ille­gal and polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed acts. (Dur­ing the Nixon admin­is­tra­tion, the NSA and CIA spied on polit­i­cal ene­mies and anti-war pro­test­ers.) The agency’s large staff of lawyers, who were put in place as part of the post-Nixon reforms, stand as the only effec­tive force that blocks this ten­den­cy, and they take this job very seri­ous­ly. Installing a rank par­ti­san as the agency’s top lawyer endan­gers this thin veneer of safe­ty.

    As the Post report­ed, Ellis played a key role in gain­ing access to intel­li­gence files that his for­mer boss, Nunes, hoped (fruit­less­ly) would but­tress claims that Oba­ma had spied on the Trump cam­paign in 2016. Ellis was also the one who pro­posed tak­ing the mem­o­ran­dum of Trump’s famous phone call with the Ukrain­ian president—the one in which he pres­sured the Ukrain­ian to launch a probe of Joe Biden’s son Hunter—and bury­ing it in a high­ly clas­si­fied serv­er.

    A for­mer senior NSA offi­cial con­firmed the Post sto­ry to me this morn­ing and added that agency staffers, with whom he remains in touch, are high­ly con­cerned about Trump’s move. “It’s about bur­row­ing Trump loy­al­ists into sus­pect­ed ‘deep state’ agen­cies,” the for­mer offi­cial told me. “This is con­sis­tent with Trump’s ongo­ing effort to hold onto pow­er by mak­ing sure no insti­tu­tion can be used to defy his grip. I’m not giv­en to con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, but this sit­u­a­tion has no oth­er rea­son­able expla­na­tion.”

    Ellis does face one pos­si­ble obsta­cle to his appoint­ment: He has to pass an inves­ti­ga­tion, includ­ing a poly­graph test, to obtain the nec­es­sary, very high-lev­el secu­ri­ty clear­ances. It will be worth watch­ing to see if Trump—who, as pres­i­dent, has exten­sive pow­ers to grant clearances—orders the review expe­dit­ed.

    This is not the end of the sto­ry. Trump is report­ed­ly keen to fire oth­er top secu­ri­ty offi­cials, includ­ing CIA Direc­tor Gina Haspel and FBI Direc­tor Christo­pher Wray, both of whom are seen as inde­pen­dent fig­ures. A year ago, he fired Dan Coats as direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence for too open­ly fil­ing intel­li­gence reports that con­flict­ed with Trump’s talk­ing points about Iran, North Korea, Rus­sia, and much of the rest of the world. He replaced Coats with John Rat­cliffe, a Repub­li­can con­gress­man whom he’d want­ed to place in the job before nam­ing Coats—until Repub­li­can sen­a­tors made clear they wouldn’t con­firm him, regard­ing him as too par­ti­san and inex­pe­ri­enced for the task of super­vis­ing the nation’s 16 intel­li­gence agen­cies. Nonethe­less, after fir­ing Coats, Trump nom­i­nat­ed Rat­cliffe after all, and the once-leery sen­a­tors, clutch­ing Trump’s coat­tails in an elec­tion year, con­firmed him after all. Rat­cliffe, a con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist and one of Trump’s most loy­al defend­ers dur­ing the Mueller probe and the impeach­ment tri­al, has done much to politi­cize the intel­li­gence that makes its way to the White House.

    Back in the Pen­ta­gon, after Esper was fired, James Ander­son, the act­ing under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy, resigned in protest. Step­ping up the chaos through­out the Defense Depart­ment, Christo­pher Miller—handpicked by Trump to take Esper’s place as defense sec­re­tary immediately—named Antho­ny Tata to take Anderson’s place. A retired one-star gen­er­al turned action nov­el­ist, and Fox News com­men­ta­tor, Tata has pub­licly called Barack Oba­ma a “ter­ror­ist leader” among oth­er incen­di­ary remarks. For that rea­son, Sen­ate lead­ers declined to con­sid­er Tata for the job when Trump tried to nom­i­nate him last sum­mer. On Tues­day morn­ing, Miller, no doubt at Trump’s behest, named Tata an offi­cial ““per­form­ing the duties of”” the under­sec­re­tary for pol­i­cy.

    Final­ly, this week, Emi­ly Mur­phy, direc­tor of the obscure Gen­er­al Ser­vices Admin­is­tra­tion, refused to sign the let­ter that would allow Biden’s tran­si­tion team to set up offices, meet with cur­rent offi­cials, and exam­ine pol­i­cy doc­u­ments in the 10 weeks between now and the inau­gu­ra­tion.* Mur­phy has adopt­ed Trump’s rhetoric to a T, say­ing that the elec­tion isn’t over until the inves­ti­ga­tions into fraud are com­plet­ed and the elec­tors are cer­ti­fied. This goes against stan­dard prac­tice in all pre­vi­ous post­elec­tion peri­ods.

    ...

    It is unclear whether Trump believes his court chal­lenges in Penn­syl­va­nia and else­where will actu­al­ly tilt the elec­tion and hand him a sec­ond term in the White House. (Most lawyers and many of his aides don’t think the motions will suc­ceed.) Mean­while, Trump has con­vinced tens of mil­lions of his fol­low­ers that the elec­tion was “stolen,” thus dele­git­imiz­ing Biden’s term in their eyes from the get-go. And through his fir­ings and block­ings, he is weak­en­ing, if not sab­o­tag­ing, Biden’s first few months at an admin­is­tra­tive lev­el. What­ev­er Trump believes hap­pened on Nov. 3, he seems to have decid­ed that if he goes down, he’ll do his damnedest to take his suc­ces­sor and much of the coun­try down with him.

    —————

    “Trump Is Mak­ing a Seri­ous Attempt to Hold Onto Pow­er” by Fred Kaplan; Slate; 11/10/2020

    “Back in the Pen­ta­gon, after Esper was fired, James Ander­son, the act­ing under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy, resigned in protest. Step­ping up the chaos through­out the Defense Depart­ment, Christo­pher Miller—handpicked by Trump to take Esper’s place as defense sec­re­tary immediately—named Antho­ny Tata to take Anderson’s place. A retired one-star gen­er­al turned action nov­el­ist, and Fox News com­men­ta­tor, Tata has pub­licly called Barack Oba­ma a “ter­ror­ist leader” among oth­er incen­di­ary remarks. For that rea­son, Sen­ate lead­ers declined to con­sid­er Tata for the job when Trump tried to nom­i­nate him last sum­mer. On Tues­day morn­ing, Miller, no doubt at Trump’s behest, named Tata an offi­cial ““per­form­ing the duties of”” the under­sec­re­tary for pol­i­cy.”

    The pieces are falling into place. One senior posi­tion after anoth­er is get­ting stacked with hard­core Trump loy­al­ists. Hard­core Trump loy­al­ists who could­n’t make it through the nor­mal nom­i­na­tion process.

    But per­haps the most dis­turb­ing new hire is arch-hack Michael Ellis ascend­ing to gen­er­al coun­sel of the NSA. So the guy who will ulti­mate­ly decide what the NSA legal­ly can do is an estab­lished hyper-par­ti­san hack. He also hap­pens to be the guy who tried to get Trump’s blackmail/shakedown phone call with Ukraine’s Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky hid­den away in a high­ly clas­si­fied serv­er. So Ellis is not just in a posi­tion to unleash the pow­er of the NSA to an unprece­dent­ed degree but also bury evi­dence:

    ...
    More seri­ous is a move, report­ed in Tuesday’s Wash­ing­ton Post, to make Michael Ellis—senior direc­tor for intel­li­gence on the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil and a for­mer aide to Rep. Devin Nunes, Trump’s most loy­al ser­vant on the House Intel­li­gence Committee—the gen­er­al coun­sel of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency. This was done at the insis­tence of the White House, over the objec­tions of the NSA direc­tor, Gen. Paul Naka­sone, who pre­ferred to pro­mote a pro­fes­sion­al staffer instead.

    Two things are sig­nif­i­cant about this move. First, the gen­er­al coun­sel is a civ­il ser­vice posi­tion, mean­ing Ellis will have pro­tec­tions against being fired for polit­i­cal rea­sons (thought he could be trans­ferred to a dif­fer­ent job) under a new admin­is­tra­tion. Sec­ond, the NSA—the nation’s largest and most secre­tive intel­li­gence agency—has the tech­ni­cal tools to spy on Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and engage in oth­er ille­gal and polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed acts. (Dur­ing the Nixon admin­is­tra­tion, the NSA and CIA spied on polit­i­cal ene­mies and anti-war pro­test­ers.) The agency’s large staff of lawyers, who were put in place as part of the post-Nixon reforms, stand as the only effec­tive force that blocks this ten­den­cy, and they take this job very seri­ous­ly. Installing a rank par­ti­san as the agency’s top lawyer endan­gers this thin veneer of safe­ty.

    As the Post report­ed, Ellis played a key role in gain­ing access to intel­li­gence files that his for­mer boss, Nunes, hoped (fruit­less­ly) would but­tress claims that Oba­ma had spied on the Trump cam­paign in 2016. Ellis was also the one who pro­posed tak­ing the mem­o­ran­dum of Trump’s famous phone call with the Ukrain­ian president—the one in which he pres­sured the Ukrain­ian to launch a probe of Joe Biden’s son Hunter—and bury­ing it in a high­ly clas­si­fied serv­er.

    A for­mer senior NSA offi­cial con­firmed the Post sto­ry to me this morn­ing and added that agency staffers, with whom he remains in touch, are high­ly con­cerned about Trump’s move. “It’s about bur­row­ing Trump loy­al­ists into sus­pect­ed ‘deep state’ agen­cies,” the for­mer offi­cial told me. “This is con­sis­tent with Trump’s ongo­ing effort to hold onto pow­er by mak­ing sure no insti­tu­tion can be used to defy his grip. I’m not giv­en to con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, but this sit­u­a­tion has no oth­er rea­son­able expla­na­tion.”
    ...

    Also keep in mind that, of all those things of val­ue that the Trump lack­eys can take with them, top secret infor­ma­tion is prob­a­bly the most valu­able asset because it’s the eas­i­est to sell. They can take it and sell it and poten­tial­ly no one needs to know. But it’s real­ly fresh top secret infor­ma­tion that’s the most valu­able. So if we’re in store for a last round of infor­ma­tion loot­ing by the Trump min­ions in antic­i­pa­tion of sell­ing that infor­ma­tion after they leave the gov­ern­ment we should prob­a­bly also expect a fresh flood of top secret infor­ma­tion to come onto the mar­ket. The longer they wait the less valu­able it becomes.

    Of course, any spec­u­la­tion about Trump min­ions obtain­ing and sell­ing top secret infor­ma­tion assumes the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is actu­al­ly end soon. It assumes no coup. And all signs are point­ing towards a coup. Or at least an ongo­ing explo­ration of the fea­si­bil­i­ty of the coup. Coup ‘feel­ers’ are clear­ly being sent out. And that’s part of what makes the selec­tion of retired Army Col. Dou­glas Mac­gre­gor to the posi­tion of Miller’s new Senior Advi­sor so dis­turb­ing. Because while Mac­gre­gor does have a track record of call for an end to end­less wars — lead­ing to spec­u­la­tion that his selec­tion at this moment is intend­ed to facil­i­tate a more rapid with­draw­al of US troops out of Afghanistan — he also has a track record of call­ing for mar­tial law to be declared on the US-Mex­i­co bor­der. And if there’s one thing Trump has to guar­an­tee is pos­si­ble if he’s plan­ning on stag­ing a coup it’s mar­tial law. You can’t have a coup with­out mar­tial law:

    CNN

    Trump admin­is­tra­tion installs advo­cate for quick Afghanistan with­draw­al at Pen­ta­gon

    By Ryan Browne and Bar­bara Starr,
    Updat­ed 4:01 PM ET, Wed Novem­ber 11, 2020

    Wash­ing­ton (CNN)An ardent oppo­nent of the US mil­i­tary’s pres­ence in Afghanistan who once called for the use of lethal force against ille­gal immi­grants and has made a litany of racist com­ments has been made a senior advis­er at the Pen­ta­gon.

    A Pen­ta­gon spokesman con­firmed Wednes­day that retired Army Col. Dou­glas Mac­gre­gor “will be serv­ing as a Senior Advi­sor to the Act­ing Sec­re­tary of Defense. Mr. Mac­Gre­gor’s decades of mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence will be used to assist in the con­tin­ued imple­men­ta­tion of the Pres­i­den­t’s nation­al secu­ri­ty pri­or­i­ties.”

    Mac­gre­gor’s appoint­ment is the lat­est in a series of sweep­ing changes at the Pen­ta­gon that has put defense offi­cials on edge and fueled a grow­ing sense of alarm among mil­i­tary and civil­ian offi­cials, who are con­cerned about what could come next.

    Axios was first to report Mac­gre­gor’s appoint­ment.

    Four senior Pen­ta­gon offi­cials have been fired or have resigned since Mon­day, includ­ing Defense Sec­re­tary Mark Esper who was fired in a tweet by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Esper’s chief of staff and the top offi­cials over­see­ing pol­i­cy and intel­li­gence.

    ...

    Mac­gre­gor has been a vocal oppo­nent of the US mil­i­tary’s mis­sion in Afghanistan and has called for a total with­draw­al of US troops and the Amer­i­can Embassy despite the con­tin­ued pres­ence of ter­ror­ist groups there.

    Knowl­edge­able sources told CNN’s Jake Tap­per on Tues­day that the White House-direct­ed purge at the Defense Depart­ment may have been moti­vat­ed by the fact Esper and his team were push­ing back on a pre­ma­ture with­draw­al from Afghanistan that would be car­ried out before the required con­di­tions on the ground were met, and oth­er pend­ing secu­ri­ty issues.

    US mil­i­tary offi­cials have long stressed that the US with­draw­al from Afghanistan is con­di­tions based, with those con­di­tions includ­ing the Tal­iban’s break­ing its ties to al Qae­da and mak­ing progress in peace talks with the Afghan gov­ern­ment, two con­di­tions that have yet to be met.

    But despite the lack of progress, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has already sub­stan­tial­ly reduced US troops in the coun­try by more than 50%, bring­ing the num­ber of US mil­i­tary per­son­nel there down to about 4,500, the low­est lev­els since the ear­li­est days of the post 9/11 cam­paign.

    Trump’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Robert O’Brien, has advo­cat­ed for a more accel­er­at­ed with­draw­al from Afghanistan irre­spec­tive of con­di­tions on the ground, some­thing made more fea­si­ble by the instal­la­tion of White House loy­al­ists in senior defense posts.

    He has also called for an imme­di­ate end to the US mil­i­tary effort in Syr­ia, where a small num­ber of US troops back the Kur­dish-led Syr­i­an Demo­c­ra­t­ic Forces in their fight against ISIS.

    Mac­gre­gor advo­cat­ed for the use of lethal force against unarmed migrants

    Mac­gre­gor once advo­cat­ed for the use of lethal force against unarmed migrants to deter ille­gal immi­gra­tion from Mex­i­co and Cen­tral Amer­i­ca.

    He was nom­i­nat­ed by Trump this sum­mer to be the ambas­sador to Ger­many but faced fierce oppo­si­tion for his remarks uncov­ered by CNN’s KFILE.

    KFILE reviewed dozens of radio and tele­vi­sion inter­views with Mac­gre­gor and found he often demo­nized immi­grants and refugees. He warned Mex­i­can car­tels were “dri­ving mil­lions of Mex­i­cans with no edu­ca­tion, no skills and the wrong cul­ture into the Unit­ed States, plac­ing them essen­tial­ly as wards of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.” He repeat­ed­ly advo­cat­ed insti­tut­ing mar­tial law at the US-Mex­i­co bor­der and to “shoot peo­ple” if nec­es­sary.

    He also said that East­ern Ukraini­ans are “Rus­sians” on the Russ­ian state-con­trolled TV net­work RT in 2014 after Rus­sia tried to annex Crimea and began an ongo­ing war with Ukraine over the ter­ri­to­ry — posi­tions not sup­port­ed by the Euro­pean Union and Unit­ed States. He lament­ed that the US gov­ern­ment inter­vened against Ser­bian forces, who engaged in eth­nic cleans­ing and war crimes, dur­ing the Koso­vo War in the 1990s to “put, essen­tial­ly, a Mus­lim drug mafia in charge of that coun­try.”

    ————-

    “Trump admin­is­tra­tion installs advo­cate for quick Afghanistan with­draw­al at Pen­ta­gon” by Ryan Browne and Bar­bara Starr; CNN; 11/11/2020

    “KFILE reviewed dozens of radio and tele­vi­sion inter­views with Mac­gre­gor and found he often demo­nized immi­grants and refugees. He warned Mex­i­can car­tels were “dri­ving mil­lions of Mex­i­cans with no edu­ca­tion, no skills and the wrong cul­ture into the Unit­ed States, plac­ing them essen­tial­ly as wards of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.” He repeat­ed­ly advo­cat­ed insti­tut­ing mar­tial law at the US-Mex­i­co bor­der and to “shoot peo­ple” if nec­es­sary.”

    That’s the Sec­re­tary of Defense’s new Senior Advi­sor. A guy who has repeat­ed­ly advo­cat­ed insti­tut­ing mar­tial law.

    So as we can see, if indeed one of Trump’s plans at this moment is to ful­fill his pledge to get all US troops out of Afghanistan by Christ­mas, we should­n’t assume there aren’t going to be new orders await­ing those troops when they return home. Like orders to kill the Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy. Whether or not the low­er lev­els of the mil­i­tary would be will­ing to car­ry out orders of that nature from a blood­thirsty revan­chist Trump admin­is­tra­tion is a grim ques­tion that has yet to be answered. It’s unfor­tu­nate­ly less of a ques­tion for the mil­i­tary’s hand-picked senior lead­er­ship at this point.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 11, 2020, 5:02 pm
  6. Tim­o­thy Sny­der wrote an op-ed with a refresh­ing­ly gloomy out­look on how the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion will ulti­mate­ly be resolved. Sny­der implores us to ignore the real­i­ty that, yes, all avail­able evi­dence points in the direc­tion of a sol­id and fair Biden vic­to­ry. Because as Sny­der points out, real­i­ty does­n’t mat­ter when you’re deal­ing with a author­i­tar­i­an move­ment intent on pulling off a coup. Instead, what’s impor­tant is pub­lic per­cep­tion. Pub­lic per­cep­tions, not real­i­ty, of whether or not Trump had the elec­tion stolen from him are what will deter­mine the kind of dam­age that will emerge from this peri­od. Per­cep­tions today but also per­cep­tions months and years for now. As Sny­der puts it, his­to­ry shows where this can go. If peo­ple believe an elec­tion has been stolen, that makes the new pres­i­dent a usurp­er. Democ­ra­cy real­ly can be buried in a big lie. If enough peo­ple the lie, real­i­ty is kind of beside the point:

    The Boston Globe

    Trump’s big elec­tion lie push­es Amer­i­ca toward autoc­ra­cy
    Cling­ing to pow­er by claim­ing you are the vic­tim of inter­nal ene­mies is a very dan­ger­ous tac­tic. Don’t under­es­ti­mate where this can go.

    By Tim­o­thy Sny­der
    Updat­ed Novem­ber 11, 2020, 10:14 a.m.

    When you lose, it is good and healthy to know why. In the First World War, the con­flict that defined our mod­ern world, the Ger­mans lost because of the over­whelm­ing force assem­bled by their ene­mies on the West­ern Front. After the Amer­i­cans entered the war, Ger­man defeat was a mat­ter of time. Yet Ger­man com­man­ders found it con­ve­nient instead to speak of a “stab in the back” by left­ists and Jews. This big lie was a prob­lem for the new Ger­man democ­ra­cy that was cre­at­ed after the war, since it sug­gest­ed that the major polit­i­cal par­ty, the Social Democ­rats, and a nation­al minor­i­ty, the Jews, were out­side the nation­al com­mu­ni­ty. The lie was tak­en up by the Nazis, and it became a cen­tral ele­ment of their ver­sion of his­to­ry after they took pow­er. The blame was else­where.

    It is always tempt­ing to blame defeat on oth­ers. Yet for a nation­al leader to do so and to inject a big lie into the sys­tem puts democ­ra­cy at great risk. Exclud­ing oth­ers from the nation­al com­mu­ni­ty makes democ­ra­cy impos­si­ble in prin­ci­ple, and refus­ing to accept defeat makes it impos­si­ble in prac­tice. What we face now in the Unit­ed States is a new, Amer­i­can incar­na­tion of the old false­hood: that Don­ald Trump’s defeat was not what it seems, that votes were stolen from him by inter­nal ene­mies — by a left-wing par­ty. “Where it mat­tered, they stole what they had to steal,” he tweets. He claims that his votes were all “Legal Votes,” as if by def­i­n­i­tion those for his oppo­nent were not.

    Under­es­ti­mat­ing Don­ald Trump is a mis­take that peo­ple should not go on mak­ing. Laugh­ing at him will not make him go away. If it did, he would have van­ished decades ago. Nor will long­stand­ing norms about how pres­i­dents behave make him go away. He is an actor and will stick to his lines: It was all a fraud, and he won “by a lot.” He was nev­er defeat­ed, goes the sto­ry; he was a vic­tim of a con­spir­a­cy. This stab-in-the-back myth could become a per­ma­nent fea­ture of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, so long as Trump has a bull­horn, be it on Fox or on RT (for­mer­ly Rus­sia Today) — or, though Democ­rats might find this unthink­able, as an unelect­ed pres­i­dent remain­ing in pow­er.

    After all, a claim that an elec­tion was ille­git­i­mate is a claim to remain­ing in pow­er. A coup is under way, and the num­ber of par­tic­i­pants is not shrink­ing but grow­ing. Few lead­ing Repub­li­cans have acknowl­edged that the race is over. Impor­tant ones, such as Mitch McConnell and Mike Pom­peo, appear to be on the side of the coup. We might like to think that this is all some strat­e­gy to find the pres­i­dent an exit ramp. But per­haps that is wish­ful think­ing. The tran­si­tion office refus­es to begin its work. The sec­re­tary of defense, who did not want the army attack­ing civil­ians, was fired. The Depart­ment of Jus­tice, exceed­ing its tra­di­tion­al man­date, has autho­rized inves­ti­ga­tions of the vote count. The talk shows on Fox this week con­tra­dict the news released by Fox last week. Repub­li­can law­mak­ers find ever new ver­bal for­mu­la­tions that direct­ly or indi­rect­ly sup­port Trump’s claims. The longer this goes on, the greater the dan­ger to the Repub­lic.

    What Trump is say­ing is false, and Repub­li­can politi­cians know it. If the votes against the pres­i­dent were fraud­u­lent, then Repub­li­can wins in the House and Sen­ate were also fraud­u­lent: The votes were on the same bal­lots. Yet con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, such as the stab in the back, have a force that goes beyond log­ic. They push away from a world of evi­dence and toward a world of fears. Psy­cho­log­i­cal research sug­gests that cit­i­zens are espe­cial­ly vul­ner­a­ble to con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries at the time of elec­tions. Trump under­stands this, which is why his deliv­ery of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry is full of cap­i­tal let­ters and bereft of facts. He knows bet­ter than to try to prove any­thing. His ally Newt Gin­grich reach­es for the worst when he blames a wealthy Jew for some­thing that did not hap­pen in the first place.

    His­to­ry shows where this can go. If peo­ple believe an elec­tion has been stolen, that makes the new pres­i­dent a usurp­er. In Poland in 1922, a close elec­tion brought a cen­trist can­di­date to the pres­i­den­cy. Decried by the right in the press as an agent of the Jews, he was assas­si­nat­ed after two weeks in office. Even if the effect is not so imme­di­ate, the lin­ger­ing effect of a myth of vic­tim­hood, of the idea of a stab in the back, can be pro­found. The Ger­man myth of a stab in the back did not doom Ger­man democ­ra­cy imme­di­ate­ly. But the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry did help Nazis make their case that some Ger­mans were not tru­ly mem­bers of the nation and that a tru­ly nation­al gov­ern­ment could not be demo­c­ra­t­ic.

    Democ­ra­cy can be buried in a big lie. Of course, the end of democ­ra­cy in Amer­i­ca would take an Amer­i­can form. In 2020 Trump acknowl­edged open­ly what has been increas­ing­ly clear for decades: The Repub­li­can Par­ty aims not so much to win elec­tions as to game them. This strat­e­gy has its temp­ta­tions: The more you care about sup­press­ing votes, the less you care about what vot­ers want. And the less you care about vot­ers want, the clos­er you move to author­i­tar­i­an­ism. Trump has tak­en the next log­i­cal step: Try to dis­en­fran­chise vot­ers not only before but after elec­tions.

    The results of the 2020 elec­tions could be read to mean that Repub­li­cans can fight and win on the issues. Read­ing the results as fraud­u­lent instead will take Repub­li­cans, and the coun­try, on a very dif­fer­ent jour­ney, through a cloud of mag­i­cal think­ing toward vio­lence.

    If you have been stabbed in the back, then every­thing is per­mit­ted. Claim­ing that a fair elec­tion was foul is prepa­ra­tion for an elec­tion that is foul. If you con­vince your vot­ers that the oth­er side has cheat­ed, you are promis­ing them that you your­self will cheat next time. Hav­ing bent the rules, you then have to break them. His­to­ry shows the dan­ger in the famil­iar exam­ple of Hitler. When politi­cians break democ­ra­cy, as con­ser­v­a­tives in Weimar Ger­many did in the ear­ly 1930s, they are wrong to think that they will con­trol what hap­pens next. Some­one else will emerge who is bet­ter adapt­ed to the chaos and who will wield it in ways that they nei­ther want nor expect. The myth of vic­tim­hood comes home and claims its vic­tims.

    ...

    ————

    “Trump’s big elec­tion lie push­es Amer­i­ca toward autoc­ra­cy” by Tim­o­thy Sny­der; The Boston Globe; 11/11/2020

    “After all, a claim that an elec­tion was ille­git­i­mate is a claim to remain­ing in pow­er. A coup is under way, and the num­ber of par­tic­i­pants is not shrink­ing but grow­ing. Few lead­ing Repub­li­cans have acknowl­edged that the race is over. Impor­tant ones, such as Mitch McConnell and Mike Pom­peo, appear to be on the side of the coup. We might like to think that this is all some strat­e­gy to find the pres­i­dent an exit ramp. But per­haps that is wish­ful think­ing. The tran­si­tion office refus­es to begin its work. The sec­re­tary of defense, who did not want the army attack­ing civil­ians, was fired. The Depart­ment of Jus­tice, exceed­ing its tra­di­tion­al man­date, has autho­rized inves­ti­ga­tions of the vote count. The talk shows on Fox this week con­tra­dict the news released by Fox last week. Repub­li­can law­mak­ers find ever new ver­bal for­mu­la­tions that direct­ly or indi­rect­ly sup­port Trump’s claims. The longer this goes on, the greater the dan­ger to the Repub­lic.”

    A coup is under way, and the num­ber of par­tic­i­pants is not shrink­ing but grow­ing. That’s the key under­ly­ing grim obser­va­tion here. The GOP’s lead­er­ship is falling in line behind the big lie. We know where this can go:

    ...
    His­to­ry shows where this can go. If peo­ple believe an elec­tion has been stolen, that makes the new pres­i­dent a usurp­er. In Poland in 1922, a close elec­tion brought a cen­trist can­di­date to the pres­i­den­cy. Decried by the right in the press as an agent of the Jews, he was assas­si­nat­ed after two weeks in office. Even if the effect is not so imme­di­ate, the lin­ger­ing effect of a myth of vic­tim­hood, of the idea of a stab in the back, can be pro­found. The Ger­man myth of a stab in the back did not doom Ger­man democ­ra­cy imme­di­ate­ly. But the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry did help Nazis make their case that some Ger­mans were not tru­ly mem­bers of the nation and that a tru­ly nation­al gov­ern­ment could not be demo­c­ra­t­ic.

    ...

    If you have been stabbed in the back, then every­thing is per­mit­ted. Claim­ing that a fair elec­tion was foul is prepa­ra­tion for an elec­tion that is foul. If you con­vince your vot­ers that the oth­er side has cheat­ed, you are promis­ing them that you your­self will cheat next time. Hav­ing bent the rules, you then have to break them. His­to­ry shows the dan­ger in the famil­iar exam­ple of Hitler. When politi­cians break democ­ra­cy, as con­ser­v­a­tives in Weimar Ger­many did in the ear­ly 1930s, they are wrong to think that they will con­trol what hap­pens next. Some­one else will emerge who is bet­ter adapt­ed to the chaos and who will wield it in ways that they nei­ther want nor expect. The myth of vic­tim­hood comes home and claims its vic­tims.
    ...

    And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle points out, it’s far from just the GOP lead­er­ship get­ting behind the big lie. The Repub­li­can elec­torate has already large­ly embraced it too. Accord­ing to a recent sur­vey con­duct­ed Nov. 6–9, around 70 per­cent of Repub­li­cans have already con­clud­ed that the elec­tion was not free and fair. Don­ald Trump had the elec­tion stolen from him. That big lie is already GOP’s con­sen­sus real­i­ty:

    Politi­co

    Poll: 70 per­cent of Repub­li­cans don’t think the elec­tion was free and fair

    The POLITICO/Morning Con­sult sur­vey found trust in the elec­tion sys­tem plum­met­ed among Repub­li­cans while ris­ing among Democ­rats after the race was called on Sat­ur­day.

    By CATHERINE KIM
    11/09/2020 05:00 PM EST

    After the pres­i­den­tial race was called for Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date Joe Biden, Repub­li­cans’ trust in the elec­tion sys­tem plum­met­ed, while Democ­rats’ trust soared, accord­ing to a new POLITICO/Morning Con­sult poll.

    Mul­ti­ple new orga­ni­za­tions announced Biden as the elec­tion win­ner on Sat­ur­day after four days of count­ing in sev­er­al swing states. Fol­low­ing the news, 70 per­cent of Repub­li­cans now say they don’t believe the 2020 elec­tion was free and fair, a stark rise from the 35 per­cent of GOP vot­ers who held sim­i­lar beliefs before the elec­tion. Mean­while, trust in the elec­tion sys­tem grew for Democ­rats, many who took to the streets to cel­e­brate Biden’s vic­to­ry on Sat­ur­day. Nine­ty per­cent of Democ­rats now say the elec­tion was free and fair, up from 52 per­cent before Nov. 3 who thought it would be.

    Among Repub­li­cans who believed that the elec­tion wasn’t free and fair, 78 per­cent believed that mail-in vot­ing led to wide­spread vot­er fraud and 72 per­cent believed that bal­lots were tam­pered with — both claims that have made a con­stant appear­ance on the president’s Twit­ter thread. Like Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, a major­i­ty of the peo­ple that thought the elec­tion was unfair, 84 per­cent, said it ben­e­fit­ed Biden.

    The lack of trust in the elec­tion sys­tem has led to Repub­li­cans being more skep­ti­cal about the elec­tion results. Although only 18 per­cent of Repub­li­cans had said the results would be unre­li­able pri­or to Elec­tion Day, now 64 per­cent feel the same way fol­low­ing Biden’s vic­to­ry. By con­trast, 86 per­cent of Democ­rats say they trust the results.

    Repub­li­cans were par­tic­u­lar­ly wary of the results com­ing out of swing states, espe­cial­ly in Penn­syl­va­nia, which count­ed votes for four days before deliv­er­ing Biden a deci­sive win on Sat­ur­day. Six­ty-two per­cent of Repub­li­cans said the Penn­syl­va­nia results would be unre­li­able, a stark con­trast to the 8 per­cent of Democ­rats who held the same beliefs.

    Dis­trust is sim­i­lar­ly high in Wis­con­sin (55 per­cent), Neva­da (54 per­cent), Geor­gia (54 per­cent) and Ari­zona (52 per­cent). The skep­ti­cism has par­tic­u­lar­ly been fueled by the Trump cam­paign, which has filed more than half a dozen law­suits in states like Penn­syl­va­nia, Neva­da, Michi­gan and Geor­gia since Elec­tion Day. Two days after the race was called for Biden, Trump con­tin­ues to tweet out that “Neva­da is turn­ing out to be a cesspool of Fake Votes” and “Penn­syl­va­nia pre­vent­ed us from watch­ing much of the Bal­lot count.”

    ...

    The POLITICO/Morning Con­sult poll was con­duct­ed Nov. 6–9, sur­vey­ing 1,987 reg­is­tered vot­ers. Some inter­views were done before the race was called, but the major­i­ty were after the offi­cial call. The mar­gin of sam­pling error is plus or minus 2 per­cent­age points.

    ————-

    “Poll: 70 per­cent of Repub­li­cans don’t think the elec­tion was free and fair” by CATHERINE KIM; Politi­co; 11/09/2020

    “Mul­ti­ple new orga­ni­za­tions announced Biden as the elec­tion win­ner on Sat­ur­day after four days of count­ing in sev­er­al swing states. Fol­low­ing the news, 70 per­cent of Repub­li­cans now say they don’t believe the 2020 elec­tion was free and fair, a stark rise from the 35 per­cent of GOP vot­ers who held sim­i­lar beliefs before the elec­tion. Mean­while, trust in the elec­tion sys­tem grew for Democ­rats, many who took to the streets to cel­e­brate Biden’s vic­to­ry on Sat­ur­day. Nine­ty per­cent of Democ­rats now say the elec­tion was free and fair, up from 52 per­cent before Nov. 3 who thought it would be.”

    Unless some­thing dra­mat­ic hap­pens, this is going to be the case for­ev­er. 2020 will for­ev­er be a stolen elec­tion in the col­lec­tive minds of the GOP, with all of the poten­tial future impli­ca­tions Tim­o­thy Sny­der (and his­to­ry) warned us about. At this point, giv­en the psy­cho­log­i­cal grip Pres­i­dent Trump con­tin­ues to have on the Repub­li­can Par­ty, it’s hard to think of any­thing that could con­vince the Repub­li­can base that the elec­tion was­n’t stolen from Trump oth­er than Trump him­self com­ing out and accept­ing the elec­tion results.

    And as the fol­low­ing NBC arti­cle describes, there should be NO expec­ta­tion of Trump EVER accept­ing the elec­tion results. The fur­thest he is will to go is to con­tin­ue claim­ing the results were rigged against him but to drop his legal chal­lenges. In oth­er words, he’s will­ing to leave the White House peace­ful­ly, even­tu­al­ly, but only under a cloud of con­tin­ued accu­sa­tions that the elec­tion was stolen. This is what anony­mous White House insid­ers are telling reporters. The com­pro­mise posi­tion Trump is will­ing to get to is one where he leaves the 2020 elec­tion as a per­ma­nent fes­ter­ing wound for Amer­i­ca’s democ­ra­cy:

    NBC News

    Trump may accept results but nev­er con­cede he lost, aides say
    “He’ll acknowl­edge the results and that we’ll nev­er know how accu­rate they are,” a Trump advis­er tells NBC News.

    Nov. 11, 2020, 1:37 PM CST
    By Car­ol E. Lee, Peter Alexan­der, Mon­i­ca Alba and Hal­lie Jack­son

    WASHINGTON — There is a grow­ing expec­ta­tion among Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s advis­ers that he will nev­er con­cede that he lost re-elec­tion, even after votes are cer­ti­fied in bat­tle­ground states over the com­ing weeks, accord­ing to mul­ti­ple peo­ple famil­iar with the president’s think­ing.

    “Do not expect him to con­cede,” one top aide said. More like­ly, the aide said, “he’ll say some­thing like, ‘We can’t trust the results, but I’m not con­test­ing them.’”

    Anoth­er advis­er said that after the legal bat­tles and recounts, the clos­est the pres­i­dent is like­ly to get to a con­ces­sion is, “he’ll acknowl­edge the results and that we’ll nev­er know how accu­rate they are.”

    “But we’re not there yet,” the advis­er said.

    In the mean­time there is also grow­ing frus­tra­tion inside the White House — what allies described as “embar­rass­ment” as well as “uncer­tain­ty and doubt and con­fu­sion” — over the president’s refusal to acknowl­edge the elec­tion result and chart a path for­ward.

    “This is unsus­tain­able,” anoth­er aide said.

    Allies cau­tion that no final deci­sion has been made on where Trump intends to take this fight or when it might end. And a small group of senior advis­ers — most of them in the Trump cam­paign — still believe there is a path to vic­to­ry for the pres­i­dent.

    But those allies are a shrink­ing minor­i­ty, and some advis­ers say the pres­i­dent is com­ing around to the fact that the elec­tion result won’t be reversed. “Even Trump real­izes that the like­li­hood of the result chang­ing is almost zero,” one of them said.

    There’s an effort among those allies who know that Trump has lost to get the pres­i­dent to focus on next steps. “Over­whelm­ing­ly, the under­stand­ing is get­ting into the president’s ear that he needs to have a strat­e­gy to move on,” one aide said.

    Part of that strat­e­gy involves a mes­sage that allows the pres­i­dent to claim vic­to­ry as the most suc­cess­ful Repub­li­can in decades, a force with 89 mil­lion Twit­ter fol­low­ers and 71 mil­lion votes that is not going any­where.

    “He’s set­ting him­self up as the main oppo­si­tion leader,” one ally said. Aides expect him to leave open the pos­si­bil­i­ty of run­ning in 2024, effec­tive­ly freez­ing the GOP field.

    To under­score his pow­er in the Repub­li­can Par­ty, aides are encour­ag­ing Trump to be heav­i­ly involved in the Sen­ate runoff race in Geor­gia, includ­ing hold­ing a ral­ly in the state soon. (NBC News has said the results of the state’s oth­er Sen­ate race is still “too close to call,” and it, too, may go to a runoff.)

    While some aides had hoped the pres­i­dent would begin to move for­ward in the com­ing days, many antic­i­pate it tak­ing weeks. For the Trump cam­paign, Nov. 15 is seen as the unof­fi­cial end of the elec­tion, accord­ing to an offi­cial. That’s when the cam­paign offi­cial­ly wraps up, and only a bare-bones staff will stay in place.

    The lat­est vote cer­ti­fi­ca­tion dead­line in the hand­ful of states the pres­i­dent is con­test­ing is Dec. 1. But recounts, includ­ing in Geor­gia, could take longer.

    Offi­cials are wait­ing for direc­tion on whether to pro­ceed with assist­ing Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Biden’s team with a tran­si­tion. And the lack of strat­e­gy is in part what’s kept Trump out of pub­lic view for one of the longest stretch­es of his pres­i­den­cy.

    Aides are con­cerned Trump could scut­tle the Repub­li­can sup­port for his deci­sion to fight the elec­tion results in bat­tle­ground states if he says some­thing pub­licly that they might strug­gle to defend, as was the case dur­ing his appear­ance last Thurs­day in the White House brief­ing room when Trump insist­ed he’d won states he had lost and that there was wide­spread cor­rup­tion.

    “There’s a sense that if he goes out and does any­thing force­ful­ly, that’s the one way he risks los­ing Repub­li­can sup­port,” one of the president’s allies said. “And that’s when the whole house of cards comes tum­bling down.”

    Peo­ple close to the pres­i­dent said he plans to con­tin­ue ampli­fy­ing his mes­sage of wide­spread fraud in the elec­tion, despite no evi­dence of that. And what­ev­er acknowl­edge­ment Trump makes about Biden tak­ing over on Jan. 20, it is like­ly to include a griev­ance that the elec­tion is just the lat­est in a series of attacks on him, in line behind the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion and impeach­ment.

    Inside the White House, there’s a push to get the pres­i­dent to also focus on his lega­cy and accom­plish­ments while in office.

    React­ing to Biden senior coun­sel Bob Bauer’s com­ments Tues­day that Trump’s long-shot law­suits are “the­atrics,” one White House offi­cial said, “It’s not wrong for the Biden team to call it the­ater.”

    ...

    ————-

    “Trump may accept results but nev­er con­cede he lost, aides say” By Car­ol E. Lee, Peter Alexan­der, Mon­i­ca Alba and Hal­lie Jack­son; NBC News; 11/11/2020

    ““Do not expect him to con­cede,” one top aide said. More like­ly, the aide said, “he’ll say some­thing like, ‘We can’t trust the results, but I’m not con­test­ing them.’”

    Trump will say some­thing like, “We can’t trust the results, but I’m not con­test­ing them.” That’s as good as it’s going to get. Don’t expect any­thing more from Trump. Ever. This is going to be a for­ev­er lost cause:

    ...
    Peo­ple close to the pres­i­dent said he plans to con­tin­ue ampli­fy­ing his mes­sage of wide­spread fraud in the elec­tion, despite no evi­dence of that. And what­ev­er acknowl­edge­ment Trump makes about Biden tak­ing over on Jan. 20, it is like­ly to include a griev­ance that the elec­tion is just the lat­est in a series of attacks on him, in line behind the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion and impeach­ment.

    Inside the White House, there’s a push to get the pres­i­dent to also focus on his lega­cy and accom­plish­ments while in office.

    React­ing to Biden senior coun­sel Bob Bauer’s com­ments Tues­day that Trump’s long-shot law­suits are “the­atrics,” one White House offi­cial said, “It’s not wrong for the Biden team to call it the­ater.”
    ...

    As one White House offi­cial puts it, it’s not wrong for the Biden team to call this the­ater. And this anony­mous offi­cial is cor­rect. Big Lies are the­ater. The­ater designed to divide and con­quer a soci­ety.

    In relat­ed news, Trump is report­ed­ly also look­ing into cre­ate a media empire that will take on Fox News. So Trump’s plans include not only con­tin­u­ing with this Big Lie but cre­at­ing a media empire to ampli­fy it. Get ready for a lot more ‘the­ater’.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 12, 2020, 2:11 pm
  7. The ongo­ing con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis cre­at­ed by Pres­i­dent Trump’s Big Lie insis­tence that the 2020 elec­tion was stolen from him at the same time he makes sweep­ing high-lev­el per­son­nel that would appear to be con­sis­tent with coup plans has under­stand­ably focused on Trump’s per­son­al psy­cho­log­i­cal state and his abil­i­ty to even accept the pos­si­bil­i­ty of los­ing.

    But as we saw in that recent NBC News arti­cle where anony­mous White House insid­ers warned that Trump would like­ly nev­er accept the elec­tion results, it’s not just Trump who is resist­ing con­ced­ing the elec­tion. There’s a fac­tion of senior advi­sors — most of them asso­ci­at­ed with the reelec­tion cam­paign — who are telling Trump there’s still a path to vic­to­ry:

    NBC News

    Trump may accept results but nev­er con­cede he lost, aides say
    “He’ll acknowl­edge the results and that we’ll nev­er know how accu­rate they are,” a Trump advis­er tells NBC News.

    Nov. 11, 2020, 1:37 PM CST
    By Car­ol E. Lee, Peter Alexan­der, Mon­i­ca Alba and Hal­lie Jack­son

    ...

    Allies cau­tion that no final deci­sion has been made on where Trump intends to take this fight or when it might end. And a small group of senior advis­ers — most of them in the Trump cam­paign — still believe there is a path to vic­to­ry for the pres­i­dent.

    ...

    ————

    “Trump may accept results but nev­er con­cede he lost, aides say” By Car­ol E. Lee, Peter Alexan­der, Mon­i­ca Alba and Hal­lie Jack­son; NBC News; 11/11/2020

    So we have to ask, who are these peo­ple still telling Trump he has a path to vic­to­ry? At this point it’s all anony­mous sources talk­ing about anony­mous aides.

    But when it comes to Trump’s “senior aides” for dirty tricks oper­a­tions there are a cou­ple of obvi­ous sus­pects: Roger Stone and Steve Ban­non. If Trump is plan­ning on some sort of grand scheme to steal a vic­to­ry he’s prob­a­bly coor­di­nat­ing with Stone and Ban­non and like­ly out­sourc­ing part of the scheme to them.

    And that, in turn, rais­es the ques­tion of what Stone and Ban­non have been up to since the elec­tion. So it will prob­a­bly come as lit­tle sur­prise that the “Stop the Steal” viral social media cam­paign that erupt­ed almost imme­di­ate­ly online fol­low­ing the elec­tion as a kind of umbrel­la protest to the gen­er­al elec­tion results was cre­at­ed by Roger Stone. Four years ago. Yep, “Stop the Steal” was first launched by Stone dur­ing the 2016 GOP pri­maries. At that point it was the estab­lish­ment Repub­li­cans like Mar­co Rubio who were steal­ing Trump’s vic­to­ry. The slo­gan was revived again dur­ing the 2018 mid-terms for the close Flori­da guber­na­to­r­i­al race. But it was in 2020 when the “Stop the Steal” cam­paign real­ly took off.

    And as the fol­low­ing CNN arti­cle describes, ‘Stop the Steal’ is very much a Roger Stone oper­a­tion. With help from fig­ures close to Steve Ban­non. On Novem­ber 4, 2020, the Stop the Steal Face­book group was launched by Amy Kre­mer, the chair of Women for Amer­i­ca First. Kre­mer has pre­vi­ous­ly start­ed a super-PAC with Roger Stone’s ex-wife called Women Vote Trump.

    The Stop the Steal Face­book page was then man­aged by a team of con­ser­v­a­tive activists, includ­ing Dustin Stock­ton and Jen­nifer Lawrence, a cou­ple who have both writ­ten for Bre­it­bart. Stock­ton and Lawrence were also both part of the “We Build the Wall” cam­paign. Recall how cam­paign finance vio­la­tions asso­ci­at­ed with “We Build the Wall” led to Ban­non’s arrest of the yacht of Chi­nese bil­lion­aire Guo Wen­gui (because they were basi­cal­ly scam­ming the donors). Stock­ton and Lawrence claim they’ve had no con­tact with Ban­non since he was indict­ed in August.

    As we’re also going to see, back in Sep­tem­ber, Roger Stone was pub­licly telling Trump to declared mar­tial law and mass arrest his polit­i­cal oppo­nents should he lose the elec­tion. And then there’s Steve Ban­non’s recent advice to Trump sup­port­ers that they need to be will­ing to fight and die for Trump’s reelec­tion. So if Trump is indeed get­ting advice from Stone and Ban­non that advice is pre­sum­ably advice to declare the elec­tion stolen and to pre­pare for war. The same advice they’re giv­ing Trump’s sup­port­ers:

    CNN

    Stop the Steal’s mas­sive dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign con­nect­ed to Roger Stone

    By Rob Kuz­nia, Curt Devine, Nel­li Black and Drew Grif­fin,
    Updat­ed 8:45 PM ET, Fri Novem­ber 13, 2020

    (CNN)It is an inter­net bat­tle cry: Stop the Steal has swept across inbox­es, Face­book pages and Twit­ter like an out-of-con­trol virus, spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion and vio­lent rhetoric — and spilling into real life, like the protest planned for DC this week­end.

    But while Stop the Steal may sound like a new 2020 polit­i­cal slo­gan to many, it did not emerge organ­i­cal­ly over wide­spread con­cerns about vot­ing fraud in Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s race against Joe Biden. It has been in the works for years.

    Its ori­gin traces to Roger Stone, a vet­er­an Repub­li­can oper­a­tive and self-described “dirty trick­ster” whose 40-month prison sen­tence for sev­en felonies was cut short by Trump’s com­mu­ta­tion in July.

    Stone’s polit­i­cal action com­mit­tee launched a “Stop the Steal” web­site in 2016 to fundraise ahead of that elec­tion, ask­ing for $10,000 dona­tions by say­ing, “If this elec­tion is close, THEY WILL STEAL IT.”

    He first trot­ted out the slo­gan dur­ing the 2016 pri­maries — claim­ing a “Bush-Cruz-Kasich-Rom­ney-Ryan-McConnell fac­tion” was attempt­ing to steal the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion from Don­ald Trump — before re-upping Stop the Steal for the gen­er­al elec­tion.

    “Don­ald Trump thinks Hillary Clin­ton and the Democ­rats are going to steal the next elec­tion,” his web­site said that Octo­ber.

    Stop the Steal briefly resur­faced around the midterms in 2018 — with Repub­li­cans employ­ing the hash­tag dur­ing a recount in a neck-and-neck Flori­da race for U.S. Sen­ate — but it was­n’t until 2020 that it real­ly caught fire.

    A Stop the Steal Face­book group was man­aged by a loose coali­tion of right wing oper­a­tives, some of whom have worked with for­mer Trump advis­er Steve Ban­non. The group amassed hun­dreds of thou­sands of fol­low­ers in lit­tle more than a day before Face­book shut it down on Novem­ber 5 — the day after it was launched.

    Also on Novem­ber 5, Ban­non start­ed his own “Stop the Steal” Face­book group; he changed the name to “Own Your Vote” the fol­low­ing day. It was not removed by Face­book, but the social media com­pa­ny did lat­er remove sev­er­al oth­er pages affil­i­at­ed with Ban­non.

    “We’ve removed sev­er­al clus­ters of activ­i­ty for using inau­then­tic behav­ior tac­tics to arti­fi­cial­ly boost how many peo­ple saw their con­tent,” said Andy Stone, a Face­book spokesman. “That includes a group that was orig­i­nal­ly named Stop the Steal, which lat­er became Gay Com­mu­nists for Social­ism and mis­led peo­ple about its pur­pose using decep­tive tac­tics.”

    Spin­off pages sprung up soon after like brush fires, with Face­book strug­gling to quick­ly snuff out the spread­ers of bogus infor­ma­tion.

    All the while, Roger Stone and Ban­non have been in full dis­in­for­ma­tion mode. Stone has appeared on the show of far-right radio com­men­ta­tor Alex Jones to trum­pet ground­less claims that Biden is try­ing to steal the elec­tion; Ban­non is echo­ing sim­i­lar con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries on his pod­cast, call­ing the elec­tion “a mass fraud.”

    “We’re call­ing it a fraud or we’re call­ing it a steal — stop the steal,” he said on a Novem­ber 4 episode.

    Despite efforts by Face­book to shut down the mis­lead­ing con­tent, it was too late. The clus­ter of groups and pages — which alto­geth­er had amassed 2.5 mil­lion fol­low­ers, accord­ing to an analy­sis by activist group Avaaz — had seed­ed a jun­gle of mis­in­for­ma­tion that is being shared — and believed — by mil­lions of Amer­i­cans.

    “I would not con­sid­er this a grass­roots move­ment by any means,” said Ben Deck­er, the CEO and founder of Memet­i­ca, a dig­i­tal inves­ti­ga­tions con­sul­tan­cy. “Stop the Steal is a high­ly coor­di­nat­ed par­ti­san polit­i­cal oper­a­tion intent on bring­ing togeth­er con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists, mili­tias, hate groups and Trump sup­port­ers to attack the integri­ty of our elec­tion.”

    The move­ment has also migrat­ed to in-per­son events, Deck­er said, man­i­fest­ing itself “in a vari­ety of offline ral­lies and protests fea­tur­ing a num­ber of par­tic­i­pants that are often armed.”

    Some of the vio­lent rhetoric asso­ci­at­ed with the cam­paign has come from its own lead­ers.

    “Clean your guns,” said Dustin Stock­ton, one of the admin­is­tra­tors of the Face­book Stop the Steal group, on a Face­book Live Stream video to his fol­low­ers. “Things are going to get worse before they get bet­ter.”

    Stock­ton acknowl­edged CNN’s request for com­ment but did­n’t respond to ques­tions. Stock­ton pre­vi­ous­ly told CNN he did not see any mes­sages with­in the group “call­ing for vio­lence out­side of what is com­mon polit­i­cal hyper­bole.” He said Face­book’s removal of the page was “out of line and they should restore it imme­di­ate­ly.”

    Stop the Steal trig­gered vot­er-intim­i­da­tion law­suits in 2016

    When Stone launched Stop the Steal in 2016, it was­n’t just a cam­paign slo­gan and fundrais­ing web­site — it also became a self-described “vote pro­tec­tors” project that sought vol­un­teers to mon­i­tor polling places. Stone told CNN this week that the pur­pose of the group was “to insure the integri­ty of the vote.”

    The project trig­gered a slew of fed­er­al law­suits just before Elec­tion Day by Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ties in six bat­tle­ground states accus­ing Stone and affil­i­ates of try­ing to intim­i­date minor­i­ty vot­ers in the cities where he intend­ed to send vol­un­teers.

    A fed­er­al suit filed in Ohio, for instance, accused Stone’s Stop the Steal project of vio­lat­ing the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 and the Vot­ing Rights Act of 1965 by “con­spir­ing to intim­i­date, threat­en, harass, or coerce vot­ers on Elec­tion Day.”

    A judge grant­ed a tem­po­rary restrain­ing order against the group, but it was lift­ed on appeal.

    Today, StopTheSteal.org redi­rects to Stone’s per­son­al web page, “StoneColdTruth.com,” where Stone has been post­ing con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about “wide­spread vot­er fraud.”

    This week, he appeared on Alex Jones’s show, where Stone ground­less­ly pro­nounced that Biden’s elec­tion was a “hoax” and made a plug for Stop the Steal.

    “I think our head­line is Join the Patri­ots in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. this week­end to protest the hoax that is the theft of this elec­tion and demand that we Stop the Steal,” he said, adding, “hash­tag Stop the Steal.”

    In an email, Stone respond­ed pugna­cious­ly to a ques­tion from CNN about whether the cur­rent Stop the Steal move­ment is a recy­cled ver­sion of the false nar­ra­tive of mass vot­er fraud he led years before.

    “As for the lack of evi­dence that is the mantra of all you fly­ing mon­keys,” he wrote. “It’s like deny­ing the Holo­caust. The evi­dence is over­whelm­ing and com­pelling, despite the fram­ing of your ques­tion.”

    Stone defend­ed the recy­cling of the slo­gan in his email, attempt­ing to draw a par­al­lel to oth­er mass protests that share a theme, such as the Rev. Mar­tin Luther King Jr.‘s March on Wash­ing­ton in 1963 and The Mil­lion Man March — a gath­er­ing of Black men in Wash­ing­ton, DC, in 1995.

    Stone dis­tanced him­self from Ban­non, refer­ring to him as an “ene­my of the peo­ple.” Ban­non did­n’t respond to mes­sages from CNN seek­ing com­ment.

    This fall, as the 2020 elec­tion drew clos­er, there was talk in right wing cir­cles of dust­ing off the Stop the Steal cam­paign again — but not by Stone.

    “I’m think­ing about bring­ing Stop the Steal out of retire­ment,” said right wing activist Ali Alexan­der, for­mer­ly known as Ali Akbar, in a video he cir­cu­lat­ed on social media in Sep­tem­ber. “In the next com­ing days we are going to build the infra­struc­ture to stop the steal.”

    Alexan­der, a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure on the right whose tweets about Jew­ish jour­nal­ists have raised eye­brows, says he employed a suc­cess­ful Stop the Steal cam­paign dur­ing the 2018 midterms in Flori­da.

    This year, Alexan­der’s com­pa­ny reg­is­tered anoth­er Stop the Steal web­site — StoptheSteal.us — on Novem­ber 4.

    ...

    Also on Novem­ber 4, the Stop the Steal Face­book group was launched by an orga­ni­za­tion led by a woman with ties to Stone’s ex-wife and man­aged by a team of sev­er­al con­ser­v­a­tive activists, some with close con­nec­tions to Ban­non.

    Amy Kre­mer is the chair of Women for Amer­i­ca First — an orga­ni­za­tion which cre­at­ed the Stop the Steal Face­book group, accord­ing to Insti­tute for Strate­gic Dia­logue (ISD), a Lon­don-based think tank that mon­i­tors online polar­iza­tion and extrem­ism. Kre­mer was a lead Tea Par­ty orga­niz­er who also start­ed a super PAC with Stone’s ex-wife, Ann Stone, called Women Vote Trump.

    In an emailed response to a set of ques­tions from CNN, Kre­mer did not deny that Stop the Steal is a planned, recy­cled ver­sion of a sim­i­lar gam­bit. She declined to answer a ques­tion about the extent to which she was coor­di­nat­ing the Stop the Steal efforts with high-pro­file right wing oper­a­tives, but said: “We wel­come the sup­port and involve­ment of any indi­vid­ual who is con­cerned about the integri­ty of our elec­tions and who sup­ports Pres­i­dent Trump.”

    The admin­is­tra­tors for the Stop the Steal Face­book group also includ­ed Dustin Stock­ton and Jen­nifer Lawrence, a cou­ple who have both writ­ten for Bre­it­bart — where Ban­non once served as exec­u­tive chair­man, accord­ing to ISD. Both also were part of Ban­non’s core team for We Build the Wall, an ill-fat­ed crowd­fund­ing cam­paign for Trump’s bor­der wall that led to the arrest this sum­mer of Ban­non and three asso­ciates on sus­pi­cion of using hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in pro­ceeds for per­son­al expens­es. Stock­ton and Lawrence were not among those arrest­ed and indict­ed in August, but their recre­ation­al vehi­cle was raid­ed by fed­er­al agents as a part of the probe. Ban­non plead­ed not guilty to the charges.

    In an inter­view last week, Stock­ton told CNN that the Face­book group had had no con­tact with Ban­non pri­or to its Novem­ber 4 cre­ation or while it was active.

    “We haven’t been able to speak to any­one from that cir­cle since August and the indict­ments,” he said.

    ‘The horse has bolt­ed’

    The Stop the Steal Face­book group took off imme­di­ate­ly. Its size swelled at a dizzy­ing pace, gain­ing some 300,000 fol­low­ers in just 24 hours.

    Some com­menters on that Stop the Steal Face­book group and its knock­offs used “threat­en­ing rhetoric antic­i­pat­ing a civ­il war, or talk from mem­bers about how they are locked and loaded,” said Cia­ran O’Con­nor, a dis­in­for­ma­tion ana­lyst with the Insti­tute for Strate­gic Dia­logue.

    Cit­ing one of the most extreme com­ments he came across, O’Con­nor said a user on one of the Face­book groups said they would die fight­ing for what they believe.

    “Since then, this thread has over 450 com­ments in sup­port of the orig­i­nal state­ment, with many say­ing that they would hap­pi­ly do the same,” he said.

    Deck­er of Memet­i­ca said he watched the Face­book group rad­i­cal­ize peo­ple in real time dur­ing the peak of its viral­i­ty.

    “You had oth­er­wise nor­mal Trump sup­port­ers who sud­den­ly want­ed to under­stand what was being done against Pres­i­dent Trump in this elec­tion,” he said. “And sud­den­ly you see com­ments where peo­ple are ask­ing, ‘What is this QAnon thing?’ ‘What is red pilling?’ And imme­di­ate­ly you see all of these dif­fer­ent users engage and share harm­ful, tox­ic con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries that they oth­er­wise would have nev­er seen had they not joined the group.”

    The Stop the Steal hash­tag has also spread wide­ly on Twit­ter.

    Seed­ed by a spate of tweets by Ali Alexan­der and oth­ers at least as ear­ly as Sep­tem­ber, the hash­tag took off on Elec­tion Day — Novem­ber 3 — with a tweet by a lawyer show­ing a video of a poll watch­er in Philadel­phia argu­ing with poll work­ers who would­n’t let him in the build­ing. The man was indeed wrong­ful­ly turned away; city offi­cials told news out­lets it was an “hon­est mis­take” and that the poll watch­er went to anoth­er polling site.

    The tweet went viral, boost­ed by retweets from famous con­ser­v­a­tive fire­brands such as Ann Coul­ter and Don­ald Trump Jr. Oth­er con­ser­v­a­tive influ­encers pick­ing up the hash­tag on Twit­ter were Rudy Giu­liani, Michelle Malkin and Dinesh D’Souza, a con­ser­v­a­tive activist and film­mak­er who plead­ed guilty to mak­ing ille­gal cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions and was par­doned by Trump.

    All told, the hash­tag was tweet­ed 1.7 mil­lion times, most­ly after Novem­ber 5, said Dar­ren L. Linvill, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor in the depart­ment of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Clem­son Uni­ver­si­ty who tracks the spread of infor­ma­tion online.

    Mean­while, many of those banned from or restrained by the two Big Tech com­pa­nies have migrat­ed to emerg­ing plat­forms such as Par­ler, which became the most-down­loaded free app in the Apple app store on the week­end of Novem­ber 8 — the day major media out­lets called the elec­tion for Biden.

    Despite efforts by tech com­pa­nies and fact check­ers, the bogus charge that the elec­tion has been stolen has entered the blood­stream of Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy.

    “There are still groups active with tens of thou­sands of mem­bers, over 170 Face­book Stop the Steal events, the last time I count­ed,” O’Con­nor said. “The horse has bolt­ed at this stage.”

    The hyper-polar­ized rhetoric around the elec­tion wor­ries Steven Lev­it­sky, a Har­vard gov­ern­ment pro­fes­sor and co-author of the 2018 book “How Democ­ra­cies Die.”

    “When peo­ple lose faith in the elec­toral process and don’t think elec­tions are clean and legit­i­mate, they are much more will­ing to accept vio­lence,” he said.

    The onus, Lev­it­sky said, is on Repub­li­cans in Con­gress to assure the pub­lic that the elec­tion was legit­i­mate.

    So far, that has­n’t hap­pened. Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to rec­og­nize Biden as the win­ner. To date only a hand­ful of GOP lead­ers in Con­gress have done so.

    ———-

    “Stop the Steal’s mas­sive dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign con­nect­ed to Roger Stone” By Rob Kuz­nia, Curt Devine, Nel­li Black and Drew Grif­fin; CNN; 11/13/2020

    “Stone’s polit­i­cal action com­mit­tee launched a “Stop the Steal” web­site in 2016 to fundraise ahead of that elec­tion, ask­ing for $10,000 dona­tions by say­ing, “If this elec­tion is close, THEY WILL STEAL IT.””

    It’s a meme old­er than Trump’s pres­i­den­cy: if Trump los­es, it’s because it was stolen:

    ...
    He first trot­ted out the slo­gan dur­ing the 2016 pri­maries — claim­ing a “Bush-Cruz-Kasich-Rom­ney-Ryan-McConnell fac­tion” was attempt­ing to steal the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion from Don­ald Trump — before re-upping Stop the Steal for the gen­er­al elec­tion.

    “Don­ald Trump thinks Hillary Clin­ton and the Democ­rats are going to steal the next elec­tion,” his web­site said that Octo­ber.

    Stop the Steal briefly resur­faced around the midterms in 2018 — with Repub­li­cans employ­ing the hash­tag dur­ing a recount in a neck-and-neck Flori­da race for U.S. Sen­ate — but it was­n’t until 2020 that it real­ly caught fire.
    ...

    Flash for­ward to the 2020 elec­tions, and we find Amy Kre­mer, an asso­ci­at­ed of Roger Stone’s ex-wife, launch­ing a new “Stop the Steal” Face­book group on Novem­ber 4. The page is admin­is­tered by Ban­non asso­ciates Dustin Stock­ton and Jen­nifer Lawrence:

    ...
    Also on Novem­ber 4, the Stop the Steal Face­book group was launched by an orga­ni­za­tion led by a woman with ties to Stone’s ex-wife and man­aged by a team of sev­er­al con­ser­v­a­tive activists, some with close con­nec­tions to Ban­non.

    Amy Kre­mer is the chair of Women for Amer­i­ca First — an orga­ni­za­tion which cre­at­ed the Stop the Steal Face­book group, accord­ing to Insti­tute for Strate­gic Dia­logue (ISD), a Lon­don-based think tank that mon­i­tors online polar­iza­tion and extrem­ism. Kre­mer was a lead Tea Par­ty orga­niz­er who also start­ed a super PAC with Stone’s ex-wife, Ann Stone, called Women Vote Trump.

    In an emailed response to a set of ques­tions from CNN, Kre­mer did not deny that Stop the Steal is a planned, recy­cled ver­sion of a sim­i­lar gam­bit. She declined to answer a ques­tion about the extent to which she was coor­di­nat­ing the Stop the Steal efforts with high-pro­file right wing oper­a­tives, but said: “We wel­come the sup­port and involve­ment of any indi­vid­ual who is con­cerned about the integri­ty of our elec­tions and who sup­ports Pres­i­dent Trump.”

    The admin­is­tra­tors for the Stop the Steal Face­book group also includ­ed Dustin Stock­ton and Jen­nifer Lawrence, a cou­ple who have both writ­ten for Bre­it­bart — where Ban­non once served as exec­u­tive chair­man, accord­ing to ISD. Both also were part of Ban­non’s core team for We Build the Wall, an ill-fat­ed crowd­fund­ing cam­paign for Trump’s bor­der wall that led to the arrest this sum­mer of Ban­non and three asso­ciates on sus­pi­cion of using hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in pro­ceeds for per­son­al expens­es. Stock­ton and Lawrence were not among those arrest­ed and indict­ed in August, but their recre­ation­al vehi­cle was raid­ed by fed­er­al agents as a part of the probe. Ban­non plead­ed not guilty to the charges.

    In an inter­view last week, Stock­ton told CNN that the Face­book group had had no con­tact with Ban­non pri­or to its Novem­ber 4 cre­ation or while it was active.

    “We haven’t been able to speak to any­one from that cir­cle since August and the indict­ments,” he said.
    ...

    And then on Novem­ber 5, Ban­non him­self launch­es an “Own your Vote” Face­book page push­ing the same “Stop the Steal” mes­sage. Spin­off Face­book groups rapid­ly spread. It’s how dig­i­tal ‘grass­roots’ activism is done these days:

    ...
    Also on Novem­ber 5, Ban­non start­ed his own “Stop the Steal” Face­book group; he changed the name to “Own Your Vote” the fol­low­ing day. It was not removed by Face­book, but the social media com­pa­ny did lat­er remove sev­er­al oth­er pages affil­i­at­ed with Ban­non.

    “We’ve removed sev­er­al clus­ters of activ­i­ty for using inau­then­tic behav­ior tac­tics to arti­fi­cial­ly boost how many peo­ple saw their con­tent,” said Andy Stone, a Face­book spokesman. “That includes a group that was orig­i­nal­ly named Stop the Steal, which lat­er became Gay Com­mu­nists for Social­ism and mis­led peo­ple about its pur­pose using decep­tive tac­tics.”

    Spin­off pages sprung up soon after like brush fires, with Face­book strug­gling to quick­ly snuff out the spread­ers of bogus infor­ma­tion.
    ...

    And as dis­in­for­ma­tion researchers observed, the nation­al focus on the con­test­ed vote cre­at­ed a per­fect envi­ron­ment for con­ser­v­a­tives to get rad­i­cal­ized in real-time. All of a sud­den, the kind of groups that rou­tine­ly talk about ‘red-pilling’ and polit­i­cal vio­lence had a much larg­er and more recep­tive audi­ence:

    ...
    “I would not con­sid­er this a grass­roots move­ment by any means,” said Ben Deck­er, the CEO and founder of Memet­i­ca, a dig­i­tal inves­ti­ga­tions con­sul­tan­cy. “Stop the Steal is a high­ly coor­di­nat­ed par­ti­san polit­i­cal oper­a­tion intent on bring­ing togeth­er con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists, mili­tias, hate groups and Trump sup­port­ers to attack the integri­ty of our elec­tion.”

    ...

    ‘The horse has bolt­ed’

    The Stop the Steal Face­book group took off imme­di­ate­ly. Its size swelled at a dizzy­ing pace, gain­ing some 300,000 fol­low­ers in just 24 hours.

    Some com­menters on that Stop the Steal Face­book group and its knock­offs used “threat­en­ing rhetoric antic­i­pat­ing a civ­il war, or talk from mem­bers about how they are locked and loaded,” said Cia­ran O’Con­nor, a dis­in­for­ma­tion ana­lyst with the Insti­tute for Strate­gic Dia­logue.

    Cit­ing one of the most extreme com­ments he came across, O’Con­nor said a user on one of the Face­book groups said they would die fight­ing for what they believe.

    “Since then, this thread has over 450 com­ments in sup­port of the orig­i­nal state­ment, with many say­ing that they would hap­pi­ly do the same,” he said.

    Deck­er of Memet­i­ca said he watched the Face­book group rad­i­cal­ize peo­ple in real time dur­ing the peak of its viral­i­ty.

    “You had oth­er­wise nor­mal Trump sup­port­ers who sud­den­ly want­ed to under­stand what was being done against Pres­i­dent Trump in this elec­tion,” he said. “And sud­den­ly you see com­ments where peo­ple are ask­ing, ‘What is this QAnon thing?’ ‘What is red pilling?’ And imme­di­ate­ly you see all of these dif­fer­ent users engage and share harm­ful, tox­ic con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries that they oth­er­wise would have nev­er seen had they not joined the group.”
    ...

    So of course we’re also learn­ing that these groups are active­ly encour­ag­ing vio­lence, like when Dustin Stock­ton implored fol­low­ers to “clean your guns”:

    ...
    The move­ment has also migrat­ed to in-per­son events, Deck­er said, man­i­fest­ing itself “in a vari­ety of offline ral­lies and protests fea­tur­ing a num­ber of par­tic­i­pants that are often armed.”

    Some of the vio­lent rhetoric asso­ci­at­ed with the cam­paign has come from its own lead­ers.

    “Clean your guns,” said Dustin Stock­ton, one of the admin­is­tra­tors of the Face­book Stop the Steal group, on a Face­book Live Stream video to his fol­low­ers. “Things are going to get worse before they get bet­ter.”

    Stock­ton acknowl­edged CNN’s request for com­ment but did­n’t respond to ques­tions. Stock­ton pre­vi­ous­ly told CNN he did not see any mes­sages with­in the group “call­ing for vio­lence out­side of what is com­mon polit­i­cal hyper­bole.” He said Face­book’s removal of the page was “out of line and they should restore it imme­di­ate­ly.”
    ...

    And this entire time, Stone and Ban­non have per­son­al­ly been appear­ing online to push the idea that the elec­tion was stolen from Trump. Ban­non has his own pod­cast and Stone appears on shows like InfoWars. They real­ly are act­ing as dis­in­for­ma­tion ring­lead­ers:

    ...
    All the while, Roger Stone and Ban­non have been in full dis­in­for­ma­tion mode. Stone has appeared on the show of far-right radio com­men­ta­tor Alex Jones to trum­pet ground­less claims that Biden is try­ing to steal the elec­tion; Ban­non is echo­ing sim­i­lar con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries on his pod­cast, call­ing the elec­tion “a mass fraud.”

    “We’re call­ing it a fraud or we’re call­ing it a steal — stop the steal,” he said on a Novem­ber 4 episode.

    ...

    This week, he appeared on Alex Jones’s show, where Stone ground­less­ly pro­nounced that Biden’s elec­tion was a “hoax” and made a plug for Stop the Steal.

    “I think our head­line is Join the Patri­ots in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. this week­end to protest the hoax that is the theft of this elec­tion and demand that we Stop the Steal,” he said, adding, “hash­tag Stop the Steal.”
    ...

    Final­ly, note how Stone is dis­tanc­ing him­self from Ban­non, call­ing Ban­non an “ene­my of the peo­ple” when asked about his asso­ci­a­tion with him. That’s the kind of over-to-top denial we should expect if Stone and Ban­non are not just work­ing with each oth­er but work­ing on some­thing tru­ly treach­er­ous and dia­bol­i­cal. It’s a tell:

    ...
    Stone dis­tanced him­self from Ban­non, refer­ring to him as an “ene­my of the peo­ple.” Ban­non did­n’t respond to mes­sages from CNN seek­ing com­ment.
    ...

    So that’s what Ban­non and Stone are pubicly up to. It rais­es the ques­tion of what Stone is advis­ing Trump to do pri­vate­ly. So here’s a look at what Stone was pub­licly telling Trump specif­i­cal­ly to do should he lose the elec­tion back in Sep­tem­ber: declare mar­tial law and arrest your oppo­nents. Because the elec­tion will obvi­ous­ly have been stolen if you lose:

    Media Mat­ters for Amer­i­ca

    Roger Stone calls for Trump to seize total pow­er if he los­es the elec­tion
    Stone also said fed­er­al author­i­ties should seize all Neva­da bal­lots, fed­er­al agents and GOP state offi­cials should “phys­i­cal­ly” block vot­ing, that Trump should nation­al­ize police forces, and that Trump should order wide­spread arrests

    WRITTEN BY TIMOTHY JOHNSON
    RESEARCH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM ALEX WALKER
    PUBLISHED 09/11/20 2:11 PM EDT

    Roger Stone is mak­ing base­less accu­sa­tions of wide­spread vot­er fraud in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and is urg­ing Don­ald Trump to con­sid­er sev­er­al dra­con­ian mea­sures to stay in pow­er, includ­ing hav­ing fed­er­al author­i­ties seize bal­lots in Neva­da, hav­ing FBI agents and Repub­li­can state offi­cials “phys­i­cal­ly” block vot­ing under the pre­text of pre­vent­ing vot­er fraud, using mar­tial law or the Insur­rec­tion Act to car­ry out wide­spread arrests, and nation­al­iz­ing state police forces.

    Stone, a long­time con­fi­dant of the pres­i­dent, made the com­ments dur­ing a Sep­tem­ber 10 appear­ance on far-right con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist Alex Jones’ Infowars net­work. On July 10, Trump com­mut­ed a 40-month prison sen­tence that was hand­ed down to Stone after he was con­vict­ed of lying to Con­gress and tam­per­ing with wit­ness­es as part of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s probe into 2016 elec­tion inter­fer­ence. Name­ly, Stone lied to Con­gress about his con­tacts with Wik­iLeaks, which released hacked emails with the aim of boost­ing Trump’s prospects. In the weeks lead­ing up to the com­mu­ta­tion, Stone made a num­ber of media appear­ances where he asked Trump to grant him clemen­cy and said that in exchange, he could be a more effec­tive cam­paign­er for the president’s 2020 reelec­tion efforts.

    Stone’s efforts are now under­way, and his aim appears to be to spread con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about vot­er fraud and call for actions that would like­ly intim­i­date poten­tial Joe Biden vot­ers.

    Dur­ing his Sep­tem­ber 10 appear­ance on The Alex Jones Show, Stone declared that the only legit­i­mate out­come to the 2020 elec­tion would be a Trump vic­to­ry. He made this asser­tion on the basis of his entire­ly unfound­ed claim that ear­ly vot­ing has been marred by wide­spread vot­er fraud.

    Stone argued that “the bal­lots in Neva­da on elec­tion night should be seized by fed­er­al mar­shalls and tak­en from the state” because “they are com­plete­ly cor­rupt­ed” and false­ly said that “we can prove vot­er fraud in the absen­tees right now.” He specif­i­cal­ly called for Trump to have absen­tee bal­lots seized in Clark Coun­ty, Neva­da, an area that leans Demo­c­ra­t­ic. Stone went on to claim that “the votes from Neva­da should not be count­ed; they are already flood­ed with ille­gals” and base­less­ly sug­gest­ed that for­mer Sen. Har­ry Reid (D‑NV) should be arrest­ed and that Trump should con­sid­er nation­al­iz­ing Nevada’s state police force.

    Beyond Neva­da, Stone rec­om­mend­ed that Trump con­sid­er sev­er­al actions to retain his pow­er. Stone rec­om­mend­ed that Trump appoint for­mer Rep. Bob Barr (R‑GA) as a spe­cial coun­sel “with the spe­cif­ic task of form­ing an Elec­tion Day oper­a­tion using the FBI, fed­er­al mar­shals, and Repub­li­can state offi­cials across the coun­try to be pre­pared to file legal objec­tions and if nec­es­sary to phys­i­cal­ly stand in the way of crim­i­nal activ­i­ty.”

    Stone also urged Trump to con­sid­er declar­ing “mar­tial law” or invok­ing the Insur­rec­tion Act and then using his pow­ers to arrest Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, “the Clin­tons” and “any­body else who can be proven to be involved in ille­gal activ­i­ty.”

    ...

    ———-

    “Roger Stone calls for Trump to seize total pow­er if he los­es the elec­tion” BY TIMOTHY JOHNSON; Media Mat­ters for Amer­i­ca; 09/11/2020

    Dur­ing his Sep­tem­ber 10 appear­ance on The Alex Jones Show, Stone declared that the only legit­i­mate out­come to the 2020 elec­tion would be a Trump vic­to­ry. He made this asser­tion on the basis of his entire­ly unfound­ed claim that ear­ly vot­ing has been marred by wide­spread vot­er fraud.”

    The only pos­si­ble valid out­come is a Trump vic­to­ry. Any­thing else is a sign of ram­pant vot­er fraud. That was Roger Stone’s mes­sage to Alex Jone’s audi­ence near­ly two months before the elec­tion. And then Stone then calls for Trump to declare mar­tial law. On Alex Jone’s show:

    ...
    Stone also urged Trump to con­sid­er declar­ing “mar­tial law” or invok­ing the Insur­rec­tion Act and then using his pow­ers to arrest Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, “the Clin­tons” and “any­body else who can be proven to be involved in ille­gal activ­i­ty.”
    ...

    We can’t say we weren’t warned. They’ve been open about this psy­op for a while. Which means they’ve had quite a while to encour­age their audi­ence to think about and accept the idea of fight­ing and dying for Trump’s glo­ry. Which is exact­ly what Steve Ban­non was encour­ag­ing his audi­ence to get ready to do. Fight and die for Trump’s quest to defeat Amer­i­ca’s democ­ra­cy. On Vet­er­ans Days, of all days:

    Media Mat­ters for Amer­i­ca

    Steve Ban­non sug­gests that Amer­i­cans should fight and die for a sec­ond Trump term

    Via obscure his­tor­i­cal metaphor

    Writ­ten by Made­line Peltz
    Pub­lished 11/13/20 1:45 PM EST

    On Vet­er­ans Day, for­mer White House chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non referred to a 19th cen­tu­ry poem to sur­rep­ti­tious­ly call for Amer­i­cans to fight and die for a sec­ond Trump term.

    For years, Ban­non has cloaked his extrem­ist posi­tions with obscure and pre­ten­tious ref­er­ences. In this case, his co-host Jack Max­ey read an excerpt from “Lays of Ancient Rome,” a poem by 19th cen­tu­ry British impe­ri­al­ist Thomas Babing­ton Macaulay. The excerpt read by Max­ey on the show describes the inevitabil­i­ty of death and the glo­ry of dying for your coun­try. Ban­non con­nect­ed the quote to the cur­rent cri­sis in the Unit­ed States elec­tion, using the ref­er­ence as a call to vio­lence to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s sup­port­ers in Michi­gan, Penn­syl­va­nia, and Geor­gia.

    JACK MAXEY (CO-HOST): OK, we’re cold open­ing here with Hor­atius at the gate and I’m going to give it to you from mem­o­ry.

    Then out spake brave Hor­atius,

    The Cap­tain of the Gate:

    To every man upon this earth

    Death cometh soon or late.

    And how can man die bet­ter

    Than fac­ing fear­ful odds,

    For the ash­es of his fathers,

    And the tem­ples of his gods.

    ...

    STEVE BANNON (CO-HOST): It wasn’t the impeach­ment that was real­ly going to cause a con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis, right? You could see how that was going to kind of play out. But it was this vote in 2020 and par­tic­u­lar­ly as you saw the Democ­rats go to this mail-in vote — ladies and gen­tle­men we’re hurtling towards a real con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis and it’s going to start — this prairie fire is going to burn right up to the first week of Decem­ber. And you’re going to see some very inter­est­ing things. We’re going to need a cou­ple pro­files in courage. We’re going to need a cou­ple of Hor­atius at the gate in the first week of Decem­ber — places like Michi­gan, Penn­syl­va­nia, Geor­gia. It’s all com­ing.

    The com­ments, which did not stream on Face­book or YouTube, come after Ban­non was penal­ized across mul­ti­ple social media plat­forms because he called for the behead­ing of infec­tious dis­ease expert Dr. Antho­ny Fau­ci and FBI Direc­tor Christo­pher Wray, say­ing if it were up to him, he would “put the heads on pikes” as a “warn­ing to fed­er­al bureau­crats.”

    Though the plat­form removed Bannon’s video fea­tur­ing com­ments about Fau­ci and Wray, Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg told employ­ees in an all-staff meet­ing on Novem­ber 12 that Ban­non “had not vio­lat­ed enough of the company’s poli­cies to jus­ti­fy” a per­ma­nent sus­pen­sion from the plat­form. A few days ear­li­er, Face­book had also removed a net­work of pages asso­ci­at­ed with Ban­non for push­ing false claims about the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Bannon’s Face­book page has been inac­tive since the behead­ing remarks.

    Oth­er social media plat­forms took action in response to Bannon’s com­ments. Mul­ti­ple accounts asso­ci­at­ed with Ban­non and his pod­cast War Room: Pan­dem­ic were removed from Twit­ter, he was sus­pend­ed from stream­ing on YouTube for “at least a week,” and his Vimeo and MailChimp accounts were ter­mi­nat­ed. As of this writ­ing, War Room: Pan­dem­ic has resumed stream­ing on YouTube.

    Despite these penal­ties, Ban­non con­tin­ues to call for vio­lence amid severe polit­i­cal volatil­i­ty.

    ————

    “Steve Ban­non sug­gests that Amer­i­cans should fight and die for a sec­ond Trump term” by Made­line Peltz; Media Mat­ters for Amer­i­ca; 11/13/2020

    “STEVE BANNON (CO-HOST): It wasn’t the impeach­ment that was real­ly going to cause a con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis, right? You could see how that was going to kind of play out. But it was this vote in 2020 and par­tic­u­lar­ly as you saw the Democ­rats go to this mail-in vote — ladies and gen­tle­men we’re hurtling towards a real con­sti­tu­tion­al cri­sis and it’s going to start — this prairie fire is going to burn right up to the first week of Decem­ber. And you’re going to see some very inter­est­ing things. We’re going to need a cou­ple pro­files in courage. We’re going to need a cou­ple of Hor­atius at the gate in the first week of Decem­ber — places like Michi­gan, Penn­syl­va­nia, Geor­gia. It’s all com­ing.

    We’re going to need a cou­ple pro­files in courage. We’re going to need a cou­ple of Hor­atius at the gate in the first week of Decem­ber. That was Ban­non’s mes­sage to his audi­ence. Be pre­pared to die for Trump. In the first week of Decem­ber.

    So just as Roger Stone made it abun­dant­ly clear months ago that they were going to declare the elec­tion stolen if Trump los­es, we’re now get­ting hints from Ban­non that some sort of vio­lent actions are planned for the first week of Decem­ber. Peo­ple are going to die. Along with Amer­i­ca’s democ­ra­cy. For the glo­ry Trump. We’ve been warned. Again.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 14, 2020, 4:09 pm
  8. Much has been said about the train­wreck press con­fer­ence by Pres­i­dent Trump’s legal team on Thurs­day, where Trump’s attor­neys Rudy Giu­liani, Sid­ney Pow­ell, and Jen­na Ellis made a slew of accu­sa­tions about elec­tion rig­ging involv­ing Venezuela, servers in Ger­many, fol­lowed up by promis­es that evi­dence for these accu­sa­tions would be com­ing in the future. It was the kind of press con­fer­ence that raised more ques­tions than it answered, large­ly because it did­n’t actu­al­ly answer any ques­tion at all. And yet, in wag­ing a press con­fer­ence that is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly evi­dence-free and yet filled with far flung inter­na­tion­al con­spir­a­cy claims that appear to have come from QAnon, we did indi­rect­ly get an answer to the ques­tion of the Trump team’s under­ly­ing strat­e­gy. It’s a strat­e­gy that should sound very famil­iar by now: They’re run­ning Steve Ban­non’s “flood the zone with sh#t” strat­e­gy, where any and all accu­sa­tions, no mat­ter how unfound­ed, are wel­come because the strat­e­gy does­n’t involve con­vince the pub­lic of any­thing. It’s a strat­e­gy of drown­ing the pub­lic in a flood of sh#t to con­vince the pub­lic it can’t believe any­thing:

    Talk­ing Points Memo

    Trump Lawyers Flood Zone With Increas­ing­ly Bizarre Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ries About Elec­tion

    By Matt Shuham
    Novem­ber 19, 2020 2:45 p.m.

    They’re not send­ing their best.

    In a 90-minute, off-the-walls press con­fer­ence Thurs­day, three attor­neys for the Trump cam­paign used a tac­tic that for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Steve Ban­non once called “flood­ing the zone with sh it,” throw­ing wild accu­sa­tions at the wall and hec­tor­ing the media for not ampli­fy­ing their non­sense even more.

    The press con­fer­ence, held in a crowd­ed room at the Repub­li­can Party’s head­quar­ters in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., fea­tured a mix of com­men­tary on exist­ing law­suits, false­hoods about elec­tions offi­cials, and con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about vot­ing soft­ware. The cam­paign alleged a “cen­tral­ized” nation­wide scheme.

    Sid­ney Pow­ell, a famil­iar Trump world attor­ney and one of three lawyers to take the mic Thurs­day — along with Rudy Giu­liani and Jen­na Ellis — spent most of her time talk­ing about vot­ing machines and soft­ware that were backed by Amer­i­ca-hat­ing com­mu­nists in Venezuela, Cuba and, “like­ly,” also Chi­na. (Also George Soros, Giu­liani made sure to men­tion lat­er.)

    Pow­ell didn’t make any spe­cif­ic claims about what the evil com­mu­nist vot­ing soft­ware did to Amer­i­ca. Rather, she spec­u­lat­ed that the soft­ware might have been used to change the weight of cer­tain votes — “a Biden vote counts for 1.25, a Trump vote counts for .75” — to tilt mul­ti­ple states away for Biden and Trump. She made enor­mous claims about thou­sands of Trump votes being “trashed” and Biden votes being “inject­ed.”

    ...

    Some of the the­o­ries she pre­sent­ed, NBC News report­ed last week, began in the fever swamps that are home to QAnon and oth­er con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries. The direc­tor of Cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and Infra­struc­ture Secu­ri­ty Agency, a DHS agency tasked with elec­tion secu­ri­ty efforts, was fired by the Pres­i­dent this week after a valiant few weeks debunk­ing those the­o­ries and oth­ers.

    Giu­liani, who appeared to have hair dye drip­ping down his face, promised that Michi­gan had actu­al­ly sup­port­ed Trump — exclud­ing the votes in the state’s largest coun­ty by far, Wayne, home to Detroit.

    Dis­cussing Wis­con­sin, Giu­liani said reporters shouldn’t ask about the campaign’s legal work but rather, “you should have asked me, and you should have been more astound­ed by, the fact that our votes are count­ed in Ger­many and in Spain by a com­pa­ny owned by affil­i­ates of Chavez and Maduro.”

    The three attor­neys promised more law­suits in fed­er­al court, but they also stressed that the infor­ma­tion they were pre­sent­ing was an “open­ing state­ment,” as Ellis put it at one point, and that real evi­dence would be rolled out lat­er. She, too, exco­ri­at­ed the press for… well, some­thing.

    The head fakes, digres­sions and accu­sa­tions of media “cen­sor­ship” and thug­gery even­tu­al­ly began to repeat them­selves. So, too, did the doc­u­ments that the lawyers did hap­pen to cite, includ­ing a hand­ful of affi­davits from var­i­ous suits around the coun­try.

    “We have 100 more of these,” Giu­liani said after describ­ing one affidavit’s claims in a so-far-unsuc­cess­ful suit in Michi­gan. “I can’t show them to you because these peo­ple don’t want to be harassed.”

    “There are many more affi­davits here, I’d like to read them to you but I don’t have the time,” he added. “You know how many affi­davits we have in the Michi­gan case? 220 affi­davits. They’re not all pub­lic but eight of them are!”

    Giu­liani also whiffed on basic facts, such as what had hap­pened in Michi­gan this week: The Board of Can­vassers in Wayne Coun­ty, home to Detroit, cer­ti­fied the elec­tion results to the sec­re­tary of state. Then, on Thurs­day, the Trump cam­paign incor­rect­ly claimed in a court fil­ing that the results hadn’t been cer­ti­fied, cit­ing two affi­davits from Repub­li­can board mem­bers who want to “rescind” their votes. (Trump him­self had called one of the board mem­bers in the inter­im.) Those doc­u­ments don’t car­ry any legal weight, Michi­gan Sec­re­tary of State Joce­lyn Ben­son has said.

    Giu­liani and Pow­ell laughed and dis­missed Ben­son because she’s a Demo­c­rat. Giu­liani then recit­ed the same talk­ing points about vot­ing soft­ware in Venezuela and Ger­many.

    As The New York Times’ Mag­gie Haber­man point­ed out, per­haps the most note­wor­thy thing about the legal team was who wasn’t present: Jay Seku­low, Pat Cipol­lone, and oth­er high-pro­file Trumpers who worked the President’s impeach­ment defense.

    “Most peo­ple who’ve worked on oth­er Trump legal issues are stay­ing away from this endeav­or,” Haber­man said.

    ———–

    “Trump Lawyers Flood Zone With Increas­ing­ly Bizarre Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ries About Elec­tion” by Matt Shuham; Talk­ing Points Memo; 11/19/2020

    “In a 90-minute, off-the-walls press con­fer­ence Thurs­day, three attor­neys for the Trump cam­paign used a tac­tic that for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Steve Ban­non once called “flood­ing the zone with sh it,” throw­ing wild accu­sa­tions at the wall and hec­tor­ing the media for not ampli­fy­ing their non­sense even more.”

    It’s a dia­bol­i­cal­ly sim­ple strat­e­gy. And effec­tive when deployed by skilled bullsh#t artists. And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle points out, it’s a strat­e­gy that Trump’s legal team has been exec­u­tive under the direct advice of Steve Ban­non him­self. As we’ve seen, both Steven Ban­non and Roger Stone have report­ed­ly been whis­per­ing in Trump’s ear dur­ing this post-elec­tion peri­od and encour­ag­ing Trump not to con­cede. Now we’re learn­ing that Rudy Giu­liani and Trump’s legal team are appar­ent­ly work­ing close­ly with Ban­non too:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    As defeats pile up, Trump tries to delay vote count in last-ditch attempt to cast doubt on Biden vic­to­ry

    By Amy Gard­ner, Robert Cos­ta, Ros­alind S. Hel­der­man and Michelle Ye Hee Lee
    Novem­ber 18, 2020 at 7:47 p.m. CST

    Pres­i­dent Trump has aban­doned his plan to win reelec­tion by dis­qual­i­fy­ing enough bal­lots to reverse Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Biden’s wins in key bat­tle­ground states, piv­ot­ing instead to a goal that appears equal­ly unat­tain­able: delay­ing a final count long enough to cast doubt on Biden’s deci­sive vic­to­ry.

    On Wednes­day, Trump’s cam­paign wired $3 mil­lion to elec­tion offi­cials in Wis­con­sin to start a recount in the state’s two largest coun­ties. His per­son­al lawyer, ­Rudolph W. Giu­liani, who has tak­en over the president’s legal team, asked a fed­er­al judge to con­sid­er order­ing the Repub­li­can-con­trolled leg­is­la­ture in Penn­syl­va­nia to select the state’s elec­tors. And Trump egged on a group of GOP law­mak­ers in Michi­gan who are push­ing for an audit of the vote there before it is cer­ti­fied.

    Giu­liani has also told Trump and asso­ciates that his ambi­tion is to pres­sure GOP law­mak­ers and offi­cials across the polit­i­cal map to stall the vote cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in an effort to have Repub­li­can law­mak­ers pick elec­tors and dis­rupt the elec­toral col­lege when it con­venes next month — and Trump is encour­ag­ing of that plan, accord­ing to two senior Repub­li­cans who have con­ferred with Giu­liani and spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss the mat­ter can­did­ly.

    But that out­come appears impos­si­ble. It is against the law in Penn­syl­va­nia, Wis­con­sin law gives no role to the leg­is­la­ture in choos­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tors, and there is lit­tle pub­lic will in oth­er states to pur­sue such a path.

    Behind the thin legal gam­bit is what sev­er­al Trump advis­ers say is his real goal: sow­ing doubt in Biden’s vic­to­ry with the president’s most ardent sup­port­ers and keep­ing alive his prospects for anoth­er pres­i­den­tial run in 2024.

    ...

    While he con­tin­ues to make such false alle­ga­tions on Twit­ter and in fundrais­ing emails dri­ving mon­ey into his new lead­er­ship PAC, the president’s legal cas­es have large­ly been focused on attempts to dis­card bal­lots for miss­ing infor­ma­tion or on oth­er tech­ni­cal­i­ties. On Wednes­day, the Trump cam­paign agreed to a joint stip­u­la­tion in a law­suit in Bucks Coun­ty, Pa., that there was no fraud, even as it con­tin­ued to press for the toss­ing of mail bal­lots with vot­er infor­ma­tion miss­ing from their envelopes.

    Sev­er­al Repub­li­cans said that even Giu­liani believes the legal path is ardu­ous. The goal now is to play for delay and cast doubt on the elec­tion, they said.

    Accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with their con­ver­sa­tions, Giu­liani is con­fer­ring reg­u­lar­ly with Stephen K. Ban­non, the con­tro­ver­sial for­mer White House advis­er who ear­li­er this month called for Antho­ny S. Fau­ci, the coro­n­avirus task force mem­ber, to be behead­ed.

    “We con­tin­ue to push for­ward,” said Boris Epshteyn, a Trump ally and strate­gic advis­er to the cam­paign, who appeared with Giu­liani at a fed­er­al court hear­ing Tues­day in Penn­syl­va­nia, where the president’s lawyer faced skep­ti­cal ques­tion­ing from the judge. “The push is to deter­mine what tru­ly hap­pened in this elec­tion and the point is to get to the bot­tom of how many peo­ple vot­ed legal­ly for Pres­i­dent Trump and how many for Joe Biden.”

    The toll of the president’s false claims on pub­lic con­fi­dence in the elec­tion was appar­ent in a a new poll from Mon­mouth Uni­ver­si­ty that found that 77 per­cent of Trump sup­port­ers believe Biden’s win was due to fraud.

    “Any­thing that aids and abets doubts about an elec­tion that has been con­duct­ed with integri­ty makes the future of democ­ra­cy dark­er,” said William Gal­ston, senior fel­low in gov­er­nance stud­ies at the Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion. “To weak­en a demo­c­ra­t­ic people’s faith in its fun­da­men­tal insti­tu­tions of self-gov­ern­ment is inex­cus­able.”

    And the pres­i­dent faces grow­ing skep­ti­cism with­in his own par­ty — and out­rage else­where — about his drum­beat of false state­ments.

    For­mer White House chief of staff Mick Mul­vaney, in an inter­view Wednes­day on Fox Busi­ness, crit­i­cized Trump’s hir­ing of Giu­liani to lit­i­gate a fed­er­al law­suit in Penn­syl­va­nia.

    “It strikes me that this is the most impor­tant law­suit in the his­to­ry of the coun­try, and they’re not using the most well-not­ed elec­tion lawyers,” Mul­vaney said. “There are folks who do this all of the time. This is a spe­cial­ty. This is not a tele­vi­sion pro­gram. This is the real thing.”

    Trump’s cur­rent chief of staff, Mark Mead­ows, told reporters on Capi­tol Hill on Wednes­day that he “per­son­al­ly” has evi­dence of inel­i­gi­ble vot­ers cast­ing bal­lots. “But the real ques­tion fun­da­men­tal­ly con­tin­ues to be: Are there enough votes out there to over­turn the elec­tion?”

    In Arizona’s Mari­co­pa Coun­ty, which the state Repub­li­can Par­ty has sued over the way the coun­ty con­duct­ed a required hand-count audit, the GOP chair­man of the coun­ty Board of Super­vi­sors has expressed exas­per­a­tion with the claims.

    “It’s time to dial back the rhetoric, rumors, and false claims. There is no evi­dence of fraud or mis­con­duct or mal­func­tion,” Clint Hick­man wrote in a pub­lic let­ter Tues­day.

    Roopali H. Desai, an attor­ney rep­re­sent­ing Ari­zona Sec­re­tary of State Katie Hobbs (D), accused Repub­li­cans of using the law­suit to delay the vote cer­ti­fi­ca­tion by fur­ther­ing claims that the elec­tion was rid­dled with prob­lems.

    In ask­ing Judge John Han­nah to dis­miss the case quick­ly, Desai said it was “dan­ger­ous” to allow that nar­ra­tive “to go on even one more day.”

    Han­nah appeared skep­ti­cal of the Repub­li­cans’ claims, say­ing they wait­ed until after the elec­tion results were known to raise con­cerns about a hand-count pro­ce­dure they knew about before Elec­tion Day.

    Mean­while, in Penn­syl­va­nia, Guil­iani sub­mit­ted a new fil­ing show­ing that he plans to argue in fed­er­al court that elec­tion offi­cials vio­lat­ed the campaign’s con­sti­tu­tion­al rights because observers were not able to watch votes being count­ed. Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled Tues­day that Philadel­phia author­i­ties gave rea­son­able access to the observers.

    In a new court fil­ing ask­ing for per­mis­sion to amend the campaign’s law­suit, Giu­liani said Trump would ask the judge to con­sid­er declar­ing the state’s elec­tion results “defec­tive” and order Pennsylvania’s Repub­li­can-con­trolled leg­is­la­ture to select the state’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tors rather than Gov. Tom Wolf, a Demo­c­rat.

    Under state law, the gov­er­nor appoints the elec­tors based on the pop­u­lar vote — a fact that even Repub­li­can leg­isla­tive lead­ers have empha­sized.

    In Neva­da, the Trump cam­paign is ask­ing a state judge to over­turn or annul Biden’s vic­to­ry under a state law that allows can­di­dates to con­test an elec­tion based on alleged­ly fraud­u­lent votes and oth­er grounds.

    In a 21-page state­ment of con­test filed Tues­day, Repub­li­cans focus large­ly on the Demo­c­ra­t­ic strong­hold of Clark Coun­ty, repeat­ing some of the same alle­ga­tions they put forth in recent law­suits — and that state and fed­er­al judges sum­mar­i­ly reject­ed.

    The elec­tion con­test also makes a num­ber of oth­er new alle­ga­tions, includ­ing that thou­sands of peo­ple vot­ed improp­er­ly in the state and that some peo­ple were offered improp­er incen­tives to vote. The doc­u­ment does not pro­vide evi­dence for those claims but says evi­dence will be forth­com­ing.

    Lau­ra Fitzsim­mons, a Demo­c­ra­t­ic lawyer who has done vot­er pro­tec­tion in the state for decades, said she sees the elec­tion con­test as a delay tac­tic to dis­rupt cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

    “They’re just des­per­ate,” she said. “They prob­a­bly know bet­ter than the rest of us that their alle­ga­tions are unfound­ed, and they’re just seek­ing a delay for some rea­son that is tac­ti­cal, but not legal.”

    Trump is increas­ing­ly rely­ing on Giu­liani and cam­paign advis­ers Jen­na Ellis and Jason Miller for legal guid­ance, sev­er­al cam­paign offi­cials said — in part because Trump has stopped lis­ten­ing to the orig­i­nal legal team and in part because of those lawyers’ deci­sion to dis­tance them­selves in recent days from the president’s increas­ing­ly errat­ic effort to reverse the election’s out­come.

    As a result, Trump increas­ing­ly is hear­ing only from aides who are main­tain­ing that the elec­tion is not over. He remains hope­ful about Wis­con­sin, Michi­gan and Penn­syl­va­nia large­ly on the advice of Giu­liani, who is close to Ban­non, and Trump has urged Giu­liani to con­tin­ue the fight, sev­er­al offi­cials said.

    Giu­liani “is crazy and actu­al­ly believes Ban­non,” one senior Repub­li­can advis­er said.

    Giu­liani could not be reached, and Ban­non declined to com­ment. On his con­ser­v­a­tive pod­cast, Ban­non said Trump should con­tin­ue to urge Michi­gan Repub­li­cans to block cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

    “You can’t cer­ti­fy Michi­gan,” he said. “You don’t have to put up a slate of elec­tors.”

    The pres­i­dent was furi­ous Wednes­day morn­ing about the deci­sion by elec­tion offi­cials in Wayne Coun­ty, Mich., to cer­ti­fy their results after ini­tial­ly dead­lock­ing along par­ti­san lines, accord­ing to aides famil­iar with his reac­tion. He is also increas­ing­ly angry at Geor­gia Gov. Bri­an Kemp and Sec­re­tary of State Brad Raf­fensperg­er, both Repub­li­cans who have giv­en no indi­ca­tion that they will inter­vene to block cer­ti­fi­ca­tion there.

    Noth­ing on the ground in any of the key states that helped pro­pel Biden to vic­to­ry sug­gests good rea­son for Trump’s opti­mism. The states con­tin­ued their march toward vote cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, with elec­tion offi­cials say­ing they expect to com­plete the process by the statu­to­ry dead­line.

    In Geor­gia, Raf­fensperg­er announced Wednes­day the near-com­ple­tion of a hand-count­ed audit that reduced Biden’s lead in the state from 14,156 to 12,781 — but revealed no evi­dence of fraud. Coun­ty offi­cials have until mid­night Wednes­day to wrap up their audit before cer­ti­fy­ing results by Fri­day. The Trump cam­paign has two busi­ness days after the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of results — by Tues­day evening, at the lat­est — to request a recount.

    In Penn­syl­va­nia, a GOP attempt to throw out thou­sands of bal­lots suf­fered a fur­ther set­back in state court Wednes­day when a judge in Alleghe­ny Coun­ty reject­ed a pair of requests to bar a total of 2,649 bal­lots where vot­ers either did not write the date on their mail bal­lot enve­lope or signed on only one line rather than two when cast­ing a pro­vi­sion­al bal­lot.

    “In light of the fact that there is no fraud, a tech­ni­cal omis­sion on an enve­lope should not ren­der a bal­lot invalid,” the judge, Joseph M. James, wrote in one order.

    In Michi­gan, Democ­rats and some Repub­li­cans said the effort to force an audit before cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the vote is unlike­ly to suc­ceed because it is not required by Michi­gan law. Although Trump ampli­fied the writ­ten request by retweet­ing it Wednes­day, it was signed by only 10 out of 70 Repub­li­can law­mak­ers, none of them in lead­er­ship posi­tions.

    Even inside Trump’s inner orbit, evi­dence that real­i­ty was set­ting in came into view on Wednes­day.

    Trump signed off on the Wis­con­sin recount the pre­vi­ous evening after talks with Giu­liani and oth­er aides, and he urged them to “go to the lim­it” of con­test­ing the elec­tion and dele­git­imize Biden’s win in the eyes of Trump’s core sup­port­ers, one of the senior Repub­li­cans said.

    But in the end, the Trump cam­paign asked for a recount only in Dane and Mil­wau­kee coun­ties — at a cost to the cam­paign of about $3 mil­lion instead of about $8 mil­lion if he had request­ed a recount for the entire state. Wis­con­sin state law requires cam­paigns to pay upfront for recounts.

    Vet­er­an Repub­li­cans, mean­while, expressed unease and appre­hen­sion Wednes­day about a mis­sion tying Giu­liani, Trump and Ban­non togeth­er, call­ing it embar­rass­ing and ill-fat­ed.

    “Giu­liani is turn­ing this into a clown car and Ban­non has nev­er had a plan. They think they’re being aggres­sive but it’s dis­or­ga­nized,” said long­time GOP strate­gist Scott Reed. “Ban­non thinks he’s dis­rupter in chief.”

    Giu­liani and Ban­non last worked in tan­dem in the weeks lead­ing up to the Nov. 3 vote, when they sought to pub­li­cize emails and pho­tos belong­ing to Biden’s son that they said had been tak­en from a lap­top aban­doned by Hunter Biden at a Delaware com­put­er repair shop. Reporters for the New York Post, which pub­lished some of the mate­r­i­al, indi­cat­ed they were first told about the mate­r­i­al by Ban­non and pro­vid­ed copies of it by Giu­liani.

    Ban­non was charged in August with fraud, accused by fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors in New York of dup­ing Trump sup­port­ers into giv­ing mon­ey to a char­i­ty ded­i­cat­ed to build­ing a wall on the south­ern bor­der and then redi­rect­ing the mon­ey for his own pur­pos­es. He has plead­ed not guilty.

    Ear­li­er this month, Ban­non was per­ma­nent­ly barred from Twit­ter after post­ing a video to YouTube in which he said that Trump should behead Fau­ci, the leader of the government’s effort to fight the coro­n­avirus, as well as FBI Direc­tor Christo­pher A. Wray.

    “I’d put the heads on pikes. Right. I’d put them at the two cor­ners of the White House as a warn­ing to fed­er­al bureau­crats. You either get with the pro­gram or you are gone,” Ban­non said in the video.

    The next day, William Bur­ck, a promi­nent Wash­ing­ton attor­ney who had been rep­re­sent­ing Ban­non in his crim­i­nal case, told the court that he intend­ed to with­draw from the case. He has declined to com­ment.

    ———–

    “As defeats pile up, Trump tries to delay vote count in last-ditch attempt to cast doubt on Biden vic­to­ry” by Amy Gard­ner, Robert Cos­ta, Ros­alind S. Hel­der­man and Michelle Ye Hee Lee; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 11/18/2020

    Accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with their con­ver­sa­tions, Giu­liani is con­fer­ring reg­u­lar­ly with Stephen K. Ban­non, the con­tro­ver­sial for­mer White House advis­er who ear­li­er this month called for Antho­ny S. Fau­ci, the coro­n­avirus task force mem­ber, to be behead­ed.”

    Yes, the sur­re­al Thurs­day press con­fer­ence was­n’t sole­ly the cre­ation of Rudy Giu­lian­i’s addled mind. It was Steve Ban­non pro­duc­tion too:

    ...
    Trump is increas­ing­ly rely­ing on Giu­liani and cam­paign advis­ers Jen­na Ellis and Jason Miller for legal guid­ance, sev­er­al cam­paign offi­cials said — in part because Trump has stopped lis­ten­ing to the orig­i­nal legal team and in part because of those lawyers’ deci­sion to dis­tance them­selves in recent days from the president’s increas­ing­ly errat­ic effort to reverse the election’s out­come.

    As a result, Trump increas­ing­ly is hear­ing only from aides who are main­tain­ing that the elec­tion is not over. He remains hope­ful about Wis­con­sin, Michi­gan and Penn­syl­va­nia large­ly on the advice of Giu­liani, who is close to Ban­non, and Trump has urged Giu­liani to con­tin­ue the fight, sev­er­al offi­cials said.

    Giu­liani “is crazy and actu­al­ly believes Ban­non,” one senior Repub­li­can advis­er said.

    Giu­liani could not be reached, and Ban­non declined to com­ment. On his con­ser­v­a­tive pod­cast, Ban­non said Trump should con­tin­ue to urge Michi­gan Repub­li­cans to block cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

    “You can’t cer­ti­fy Michi­gan,” he said. “You don’t have to put up a slate of elec­tors.”

    ...

    Vet­er­an Repub­li­cans, mean­while, expressed unease and appre­hen­sion Wednes­day about a mis­sion tying Giu­liani, Trump and Ban­non togeth­er, call­ing it embar­rass­ing and ill-fat­ed.

    “Giu­liani is turn­ing this into a clown car and Ban­non has nev­er had a plan. They think they’re being aggres­sive but it’s dis­or­ga­nized,” said long­time GOP strate­gist Scott Reed. “Ban­non thinks he’s dis­rupter in chief.”

    Giu­liani and Ban­non last worked in tan­dem in the weeks lead­ing up to the Nov. 3 vote, when they sought to pub­li­cize emails and pho­tos belong­ing to Biden’s son that they said had been tak­en from a lap­top aban­doned by Hunter Biden at a Delaware com­put­er repair shop. Reporters for the New York Post, which pub­lished some of the mate­r­i­al, indi­cat­ed they were first told about the mate­r­i­al by Ban­non and pro­vid­ed copies of it by Giu­liani.
    ...

    So as we game out what exact­ly Trump has in mind in car­ry­ing out this strat­e­gy of refut­ing the elec­tion results, keep in mind that we’re cur­rent­ly in the midst of a “flood the zone with sh#t” strat­e­gy. A strat­e­gy brought to us by Amer­i­ca’s lead­ing fas­cist polit­i­cal strate­gist, Steve Ban­non, which means this is pre­sum­ably going to be fol­lowed up with some sort of ‘and now we break democ­ra­cy once and for all’ strat­e­gy.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 20, 2020, 4:19 pm

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