Opinion by Colbert I. KingColumnist
November 27, 2020
On Thanksgiving Day, I expressed gratitude that Donald Trump will no longer be president of the United States as of noon on Jan. 20. I also gave thanks that Air Force One, the presidential limousine, the White House mansion and all other appurtenances of the executive branch of the U.S. government will fall within the purview of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala D. Harris.
The thought that Trump aides Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller, Peter Navarro and Kayleigh McEnany and her crew of spin doctors will have to surrender their White House passes, and thereafter resort to taxis, ride-hailing companies, Metro or their own two feet to get around town is, well, delicious.
Today, I am looking forward to a William P. Barr-free Justice Department, a State Department no longer under the thumb of Mike Pompeo and a Defense Department led by experienced and competent professionals, all of which ensures that the causes of justice, diplomacy and our national defense will soon be in good hands.
Yet, I stop short of breathing a sigh of relief because Trump will be out of office. He will, after all, only be out of the building.
What that narcissistic demagogue has already done, and what his vindictive nature is causing him to now do, foreshadows that dark days may lie ahead.
The unscrupulous and defeated president, who continues to press unfounded charges of being cheated out of the election, is more than an American abnormality. Trump is doing damage to our democratic system by undermining confidence in our elections. There is also an added aspect to his recklessness.Trump’s unconscionable actions might be laying the groundwork for politically motivated violence.
Because of his baseless charges, millions of Americans believe the 2020 election was not free and fair. A majority of Republicans believe Trump actually won.
Opinion by Lyz LenzNovember 27, 2020 at 9:31 a.m. MSTAdd to list
Lyz Lenz is a journalist and the author of “God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America.”
On Jan. 21, 2017, hundreds of thousands of women flooded Washington and other cities across the United States for what has been called the largest single-day protest in American history. In pink “pussyhats,” they protested the inauguration of a president accused of sexual assault whose misogyny had become a feature of his campaign.
This was the rage of women — a force that, we were told, would be a cleansing power in U.S. politics. Hillary Clinton’s loss would be the catalyst for a new era of empowered womanhood. Americans were promised a “pink wave” of self-proclaimed “nasty women” who would reshape the Democratic Party and play a bigger role in government. Indeed, in 2018, a record number of women — notably including Black women and other women of color — were elected to local and federal offices. This, prognosticators said, was the beginning of the revolution.
But what actually happened? Certainly, women made an impressive impact. But consider White women specifically. The 2016 exit polls told us that 52 percent of White women voted for Donald Trump. As with most exit polls, that number turned out to be not quite accurate: By August 2018, a Pew Research analysisestimated that the percentage of White women who voted for Trump in 2016 was actually closer to 47 percent, compared with 45 percent for Clinton. Still not great.
Fast forward to Election Day 2020: Exit polling indicates that Trump’s support hadincreased among White women, with some major polls putting it at 55 percent. Though we can again expect the eventual figure to be adjusted, the reality of Trump’s support is not likely to change. And that shouldn’t surprise anyone.
White women are not a swing voting bloc. In the past 18 presidential elections, they have repeatedly voted for the Republican candidate, breaking only for Lyndon B. Johnson and for Bill Clinton’s second term. As political scientist Jane Junn wrotein 2016, “The elephant in the room is white and female, and she has been standing there since 1952.”
Being president should mean you are more accountable, not less, to the rule of law.
By Andrew Weissmann
Mr. Weissmann was a senior prosecutor in the Mueller investigation.
When the Biden administration takes office in 2021, it will face a unique, fraught decision: Should Donald Trump be criminally investigated and prosecuted?
Any renewed investigative activity or a criminal prosecution would further divide the country and stoke claims that the Justice Department was merely exacting revenge. An investigation and trial would be a spectacle that would surely consume the administration’s energy.
But as painful and hard as it may be for the country, I believe the next attorney general should investigate Mr. Trump and, if warranted, prosecute him for potential federal crimes.
I do not come to this position lightly. Indeed, we have witnessed two U.S. presidential elections in which large crowds have found it acceptable to chant with fervent zeal that the nominee of the opposing party should be jailed. We do not want to turn into an autocratic state, where law enforcement authorities are political weapons of the reigning party.
But that is not sufficient reason to let Mr. Trump off the hook.
Mr. Trump’s criminal exposure is clear. I was a senior member of the investigation led by the former special counsel Robert Mueller to determine whether Russia attempted to subvert our fundamental democratic source of political legitimacy: our electoral system. Among other things, he was tasked with determining whether Mr. Trump interfered with our fact-finding into this issue.
We amassed ample evidence to support a charge that Mr. Trump obstructed justice. That view is widely shared. Shortly after our report was issued, hundreds of former prosecutors concluded that the evidence supported such a charge.
What precedent is set if obstructing such an investigation is allowed to go unpunished and undeterred? It is hard enough for the executive branch to investigate a sitting president, who has the power to fire a special counsel (if needed, through the attorney general) and to thwart cooperation with an investigation by use of the clemency power. We saw Mr. Trump use his clemency power to do just that with, for example, his ally Roger Stone. He commuted Mr. Stone’s sentence, who was duly convicted by a jury but never spent a day in jail for crimes that a federal judge found were committed for the president. The same judge found that Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, lied to us repeatedly, breaching his cooperation agreement. He, too, was surely holding out hope for a dangled pardon.
Mr. Trump can’t point to what the special counsel investigation did not find (e.g., “collusion”) when he obstructed that very investigation. The evidence against Mr. Trump includes the testimony of Don McGahn, Mr. Trump’s former White House counsel, who detailed how the president ordered the firing of the special counsel and how when that effort was reported in the press, Mr. Trump beseeched Mr. McGahn to deny publicly the truth and, for safe measure, memorialize that falsity in a written memorandum.
The evidence includes Mr. Trump’s efforts to influence the outcome of a deliberating jury in the Manafort trial and his holding out the hope for a pardon to thwart witnesses from cooperating with our investigation. Can anyone even fathom a legitimate reason to dangle a pardon?
His potential criminal liability goes further, to actions before taking office. The Manhattan district attorney is by all appearances conducting a classic white-collar investigation into tax and bank fraud, and the New York attorney general is engaged in a civil investigation into similar allegations, which could quickly turn into a criminal inquiry.
These state matters may well reveal evidence warranting additional federal charges. Such potential financial crimes were not explored by the special counsel investigation and could reveal criminal evidence. Any evidence that was not produced to Congress in its inquiries, like internal State Department and White House communications, is another potential trove to which the new administration should have access.
The matters already set out by the special counsel and under investigation are not trivial; they should not raise concerns that Mr. Trump is being singled out for something that would not be investigated or prosecuted if committed by anyone else.
Because some of the activities in question predated his presidency, it would be untenable to permit Mr. Trump’s winning a federal election to immunize him from consequences for earlier crimes. We would not countenance that result if a former president was found to have committed a serious violent crime.
Sweeping under the rug Mr. Trump’s federal obstruction would be worse still. The precedent set for not deterring a president’s obstruction of a special counsel investigation would be too costly: It would make any future special counsel investigation toothless and set the presidency de facto above the law. For those who point to the pardon of Richard Nixon by Gerald Ford as precedent for simply looking forward, that is not analogous: Mr. Nixon paid a very heavy price by resigning from the presidency in disgrace for his conduct.
Mr. Trump may very well choose to pardon not just his family and friends before leaving office but also himself in order to avoid federal criminal liability. This historic turn of events would have no effect on his potential criminal exposure at the state level. If Mr. Trump bestows such pardons, states like New York should take up the mantle to see that the rule of law is upheld. And pardons would not preclude the new attorney general challenging a self-pardon or the state calling the pardoned friends and family before the grand jury to advance its investigation of Mr. Trump after he leaves office (where, if they lied, they would still risk charges of perjury and obstruction).
In short, being president should mean you are more accountable, not less, to the rule of law.
At about 6:00 tonight, Emily Murphy, the Trump appointee at the head of General Services Administration who has been holding up the transition to a Biden administration, notified President-Elect Joe Biden that she recognizes his status and will release the money set aside for the transition. This should launch the formal transition process between administrations, as Biden’s people meet with Trump’s people to learn about the issues over which they will be assuming control on January 20, 2021.
Murphy’s decision appears to have been prompted by Michigan’s certification of its election results. Biden won the state by 150,000 votes, fourteen times Trump’s margin there in 2016, and now can officially claim the state’s 16 electoral votes. This makes it almost impossible for Trump somehow to eke out a win. The Trump campaign vowed to fight on.
Murphy went out of her way to say that she was not pressured by the White House, but Trump promptly contradicted her, saying that the call had been his. For all his bluster, the Trump campaign has bowed to reality, and this might indicate a new era in politics.
Trump is unique, but he is also the product of a distinctive era of Republican history. Beginning in 1968, the party began to win power through the Southern Strategy, picking up racist southern Democrats who opposed the Democratic Party’s embrace of Black rights. After Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, those voters supported Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for president thanks to his insistence that federal protection of racial equality was unconstitutional. The 1965 Voting Rights Act, signed by Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, put their loyalty up for grabs. Richard Nixon claimed it by promising he would not use the federal government to enforce racial justice.
This strategy worked, but it changed the trajectory of the post-WWII Republican Party. It had been Republican Supreme Court justices nominated by President Dwight Eisenhower who advanced civil rights by insisting that states were bound by the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, but the Republican Party now needed to court voters motivated by white supremacy. That ideology promoted an image of white men as the hardworking producers in the country, taking care of their wives and children, while people of color and independent women who wanted equal rights were demanding government program that sucked tax dollars.
That formula became the driving narrative of the modern party, embraced by business leaders who needed to marshal voters behind policies that increasingly benefited not ordinary Americans but those at the very top of the economic ladder. Over time, this new breed of Republicans bled out of the party traditional Republicans who objected to the extremist turn the party was taking. And extremist it was: aided by talk radio and the Fox News Channel, party leaders increasingly demonized their opponents, until by 2016, the leader of the party opened his presidential campaign by alleging that immigrants were criminals, boasting of sexual assault, and welcoming the support of white supremacists.
And yet, despite a clear pattern of voter suppression, a majority of voters rejected Trump in 2020, suggesting that demographics and reality have finally caught up with the Southern Strategy.
In the wake of the election, Trump’s followers have embraced his distrust of our electoral system and are flocking to the conspiracy theories put forward by QAnon. They are flocking to Parler, a social media website that permits conspiracy theories to spread unchecked, although, interestingly, their leaders remain on more mainstream platforms like Twitter.
While defeated incumbents tend to lose power in their party, Trump has tried to assert his continued control. He has attacked loyal Republicans like Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine who have refused to support his attempt to steal the election; is hoping to keep his handpicked Republican National Committee chair, Ronna McDaniel, in office; has packed state level party positions with loyalists; and is trying to keep control over the voter data he has compiled over the past four years. Trump is primed to control the direction of the party for 2024. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) have signaled their support for this plan by endorsing McDaniel for another term in office.
But while followers marinate in fantasies about secret servers and hidden ballots, and congressional leaders endorse Trump, other Republican Party leaders recognize that his refusal to accept the results of the election is unprecedented and dangerous.
On Sunday, leaders began to pressure Trump to concede. Trump’s former National Security Advisers John Bolton and H. R. McMaster agreed that Trump’s disdain for the election was eroding democracy, which plays into the hands of our adversaries. The Republican former governor of New Jersey, Thomas H. Kean, and a former Democratic lawmaker from New Jersey, Tim Roemer, both of whom were on the 9/11 Commission, were more explicit. They warned that the transition delay from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush contributed to the 9/11 terrorist attack.
At about 6:00 last night, the Trump campaign abruptly jettisoned the attorney who has been making even more crazy claims than Trump’s longtime lawyer Rudy Giuliani. A statement from the Trump campaign, signed by Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser to the Trump team, said “Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity.” Powell, who is openly a QAnon believer, has been out in front of the Trump recount effort, making simply outrageous claims. It seems her craziness finally went too far.
Today more than 100 former national security officials from the Republican Party issued a statement saying that Trump’s refusal to concede “constitutes a serious threat to America’s democratic process and to our national security.” They called “on Republican leaders—especially those in Congress—to publicly demand that President Trump cease his anti-democratic assault on the integrity of the presidential election…. By encouraging President Trump’s delaying tactics or remaining silent, Republican leaders put American democracy and national security at risk.”
Tonight, Emily Murphy finally admitted that Joe Biden won the 2020 election.
It’s hard to imagine this admission will bring the extremist Trump supporters back into the fold. At the same time it’s hard to see how establishment Republicans horrified by the excesses of Trump’s regime will be willing to move toward the extremists. If this is indeed a split, establishment Republicans will have to move back toward the center to pick up the voters the party has lost at the fringes. Its extremist adherents will regroup outside the mainstream, and the power of the Southern Strategy to win elections will be broken.
While Republican leaders have struggled, Biden has stayed above the Trumpian fray, emphasizing the need for coordination to distribute the coronavirus vaccine but focusing on jump-starting his administration rather than challenging Trump in the public forum. Last night, word began to leak of the president-elect’s Cabinet picks. They are a very clear sign of his determination to rebuild the nation by putting experts back into power.
Biden’s nominees are people who have spent long careers inside the government, making them good candidates to rebuild what Trump gutted, beginning with the State Department, which manages our foreign policy. Biden began by naming a secretary of state, a sign to the world that America is back and wants again to be a reliable partner. His pick is Antony Blinken, who served as Deputy Secretary of State and Deputy National Security Advisor under President Barack Obama. Blinken also worked with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden chaired it, and served as Biden’s National Security advisor when he was vice president. He will be an informed, strong voice at State.
The rest of Biden’s candidates show similar credentials, but they also reflect the longstanding Democratic principle that the government should reflect the American people. Biden is proposing Cuban-born Alejandro Mayorkas, a former deputy secretary, to head the Department of Homeland Security. He proposes Avril Haines, former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, for Director of National Intelligence, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a 35-year veteran of the foreign service, who is Black, for ambassador the United Nations.
Thomas-Greenfield went to college with David Duke, who would go on to become the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and who endorsed Trump for president in both 2016 and 2020. It is a new era in politics in at least some very important ways.
Beware of leaders willing to set their own country on fire.
NOVEMBER 22, 2020
Edward S. SteinfeldAuthor of Playing Our Game: Why China’s Rise Doesn’t Threaten the West
For months prior, radical acolytes of Mao, none with formal positions in the Communist hierarchy, had been circulating outlandish conspiracy theories about counterrevolutionary plotting and anti-Mao cliques in the highest echelons of the Chinese system, in which the party and the state were one. Unable to press their accusations through the highly bureaucratized and tightly controlled media channels of the party center in Beijing, the radicals, with Mao’s quiet urging, published their claims in a Shanghai newspaper, far from the nation’s capital.
In the resultant miasma of disinformation and innuendo, opportunists in politically important institutions, particularly universities, became emboldened enough to openly vilify what otherwise would have been considered the normal operations of the party-state. In late May of 1966, Nie Yuanzi, an undistinguished mid-level professor at Peking University, publicly accused the university’s leadership, and by extension the Communist Party leadership of Beijing municipality, of being controlled by the “bourgeoisie” and engaging in counterrevolution—capital crimes in those days. Her posted accusations on a university bulletin board might nevertheless have amounted to nothing in this pre-internet era of analog communication. Yet Chairman Mao endorsed the slanderous diatribe, ordering it to be read aloud on national radio and to be published in the party-state’s main newspaper, the People’s Daily.
But it was Mao’s own public proclamation on August 5, his call to bombard the headquarters, that fully set the nation ablaze. Mao, echoing and now formally putting his name behind the conspiracy theories that had been swirling for months, declared that comrades from the party center down to the organization’s lowest-level tendrils had adopted a reactionary bourgeois line, were committed to overturning the revolution, and were actively imposing a “white terror” upon the people. The real threat to the nation’s survival, Mao argued, was no longer the holdouts from the old order—the capitalists, the landlords, the Confucianists. Nor was it China’s turncoat former allies, the Soviets. Nor even was it the worst of the imperialists abroad, the Americans. Rather, the existential threat now resided within the heart of the Communist Party itself, in what today would be termed the “deep state.”
Mao, relishing disruption, and basking in his own centrality to the roiling chaos, called upon young people to rise up. And rise up they did. From August to November 1966, millions of Chinese youth flocked to the capital to attend wildly emotional rallies. Little Red Books in hand, they crowded in Tiananmen Square to catch a glimpse of the chairman, revel in his politics of resentment, and bellow in unison their unwavering fealty to his rule. “Ten thousand years to Chairman Mao! Ten thousand years to Chairman Mao! Ten thousand years to Chairman Mao!”
Impassioned in their newly anointed role as saviors of the revolution, the young, the impressionable, and the disaffected lashed out against the agents of authority all around them, the closer at hand the better: teachers, parents, senior colleagues in the workplace, and so on. Indeed, on the day Mao urged citizens to bombard the headquarters, secondary-school students—adolescents, really—in the all-girls high school affiliated with Beijing Normal University beat to death their school’s party secretary, Bian Zhongyun. Murders of this type would be repeated almost 1,800 times in Beijing alone over the next eight weeks. And that’s not counting the suicides, the beatings, and all the other grievous injuries.
That was just the beginning. By the fall of 1966 and into 1967, violence metastasized across China’s cities. Gangs of radicals tried to seize local power, only to be countered by defenders of the status quo fighting for their own survival. Government agencies were ransacked and looted. Party officials were bound up, humiliated, and thrown before the mob, some never to emerge alive. Workplaces, neighborhoods, and even entire cities descended into internecine warfare as faction battled faction, colleague raged against colleague, student pummeled student, and, in many cases, family member turned on family member. Radicalized citizens broke into military armories and pillaged the contents, thus injecting automatic weapons, hand grenades, and artillery pieces into the nationwide melee. China in just a few months had gone from a rigidly ordered society to Lord of the Flies. Though the final death count is still murky, well more than a million individuals likely lost their lives.