Stephen Colbert Takes on Trump’s Friendship With Tabloid Publisher

Another day, another high-profile witness in the Russia investigation. On Thursday, Stephen Colbert unpacked the news that David Pecker — the publisher of The National Enquirer and a close ally of President Trump — had admitted to prosecutors that he made hush-money payments to a Playboy model to shield Trump’s presidential campaign.

 
Colbert found plenty of angles of attack.

Trumpism Is Racism, So Things Will Get Worse

After the 2018 midterms, is Trumpism still a sustainable strategy for the GOP?

President Donald Trump clasps he steps on stage to speak at a rally, in Macon, Ga, Nov 4, 2018

President Trump at a rally in Macon, Georgia, Nov 4th, 2018 John Bazemore/AP/Shutterstock

November 6th was a bad night for President Trump, no matter what he says. He now has to deal with a newly empowered opposition party with a mandate to check his myriad abuses and scandals. The rebuke wasn’t as harsh as it needed to be, though.

Trumpism, which is essentially short for “espousing racism,” continued to score well with the president’s base. Paired with the flaws in our democracy that help maintain white political power, it diluted a Democratic victory that should have been more absolute. Trumpism likely helped some Republicans hold off insurgent candidacies that would have otherwise taken them down.

Catering to bigotry gave these candidates something to run on in lieu of a policy platform. That approach may work for Trump heading into 2020, because he’s Trump and there’s an unshakable cult of personality around him. But is his brand of racism a sustainable strategy for the Republican Party?

“I think it was a 55-45 night in the direction of the Democrats,” says Anand Giridharadas, journalist and author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. “A sizable part of the country repudiated racism, demagogy, sexism, corruption, the abuse of power and demi-competent authoritarianism. The other way to read the results is that 45 percent is too damn high. A wanna-be tyrant like Donald Trump should not poll in the double digits in American life, and we’re not safe until he doesn’t anymore.”

“It worked, I suppose, but not really better than the more mainstream Republican campaigns that worked before it,” Princeton historian Kevin Kruse tells Rolling Stone. “Meanwhile, look at all the candidates who were incredibly Trumpist and had horrible nights.”

Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state known for cloaking voter suppression in quests to root out nonexistent voter fraud, lost his race for governor. Scott Walker lost the governor’s seat in Wisconsin. Longtime Iowa Congressman Steve King, who has repeatedly been associated with groups with white-nationalist sympathies, was almost too bigoted to get reelected. Almost.

But as we move toward 2020, the vitriol and discriminatory policies are likely to get worse before they get better.

“One of the fundamental lurches taken toward the far right was the deployment of the military in a domestic election,” says law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw of Trump gratuitously sending troops to defend the border from an immigrant caravan hundreds of miles away. “His ability to do it without significant political costs — and with virtual silence from Republicans — is a terrifying development. What happens when the inevitable unrest and protest against Trumpism grow? There’s little question in my mind that the lines between legitimate uses of force for security and the use to suppress dissent has been crossed.”

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

Too Rich to Jail

By Maureen Dowd

Opinion Columnist

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, flanked by other cabinet members, attended a ceremony at the White House on FridayCredit Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — When I was in Reykjavik in August, Icelanders were bragging about putting the corrupt bankers who ravaged their economy in prison. In America, it works somewhat differently.

We let the corrupt bankers who ravaged our economy roam free with bigger bonuses, more lavish Hamptons houses and fresh risky schemes. The big banks are bigger than ever and prosecution of white-collar crimes is at a 20-year low. And, cherry on the gilded cake, we put white-collar criminals in charge of the country — elevating epic grifters to the presidency and powerful cabinet posts.

Reading all the recent stories about the 10th anniversary of the financial crisis, it’s easy to see the neon line leading from Barack Obama’s failure to punish Wall Street scammers to the fact that Republican scammers are now infecting the entire infrastructure of government.

“The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street rose up as opposite expressions of anti-establishment rage, nourished by the sense that colluding elites in government and business had got away with a crime,” George Packer wrote in The New Yorker. “The game was rigged — that became the consensus of the alienated.”

 

Some saw it as the end of the Democratic Party. Democrats were the party of workers, charged with protecting people from big money, big banks and big fraud. Obama, the great hope to revitalize the left, immediately folded. Some analogized that the failure to send bankers to jail or even on perp walks made the party’s white blood cell count drop to the point that G.O.P. infections could run wild.

In his 2016 book, “Listen, Liberal,” Thomas Frank wrote that “the hope drained out of the Obama movement” at the meeting between the fledgling president and Wall Street C.E.O.s in March 2009: “After warning them about ‘the pitchforks’ of an angry public, Obama reassured the frightened bankers that they could count on him to protect them; that he had no intention of restructuring their industry or changing the economic direction of the nation.” (After he left the White House, Obama followed Hillary’s lead, buckraking on Wall Street.)

 

David Axelrod, the Obama counselor who fought during the crisis to “kick the offenders harder,” as he puts it, says he still feels “very conflicted.” “We feared that if you took a brick out of the wall then the whole damn wall might fall down,” he said. “But it wasn’t helpful, as far as Trump. To the extent that people felt the deal was rigged against them and in favor of the powerful, it gave him fodder.”

 

But it was just another Trump con. His administration, The Times reported, “has presided over a sharp decline in financial penalties against banks and big companies accused of malfeasance,” sparing corporate wrongdoers billions in fines.

Asked about The Times’s scorching investigation last month on how “self-made” Trump received at least $413 million in today’s dollars from his father’s real estate empire, much of it through tax dodges, Kellyanne Conway shrugged it off, saying, “Haven’t they learned that the president always gets the last laugh?”

Trump’s White House started off like a branch office of Goldman Sachs, as Elizabeth Warren noted. Gary Cohn, Trump’s former economic adviser from Goldman, showed that Wall Street’s arrogance shines bright when he recently told Reuters that borrowers were just as responsible for the 2008 crisis as lenders.

“Who broke the law?” Cohn asked, adding: “Was the waitress in Las Vegas who had six houses leveraged at 100 percent with no income, was she reckless and stupid? Or was the banker reckless and stupid?”

Binyamin Appelbaum, The Times’s economics wiz, riposted on Twitter: “A more accurate characterization of the housing bubble is that it was one of the largest orgies of white collar criminality in American history.”

Speaking of orgies, Tim Leissner, the former Goldman Sachs banker whose guilty plea in the company’s $600 million international fraud case was unsealed this month, told the judge that his conspiracy was “very much in line” with the culture of Goldman Sachs “to conceal facts from certain compliance and legal employees of Goldman Sachs.”

 

Like his new boss, Matthew Whitaker has a pattern of thuggishness, threats, scams and abusing the power of his office to wage partisan feuds. Our new top cop was on the board of a shady patent company that has claimed Bigfoot exists and time travel could be coming. It also touted a “masculine toilet” to give well-endowed men “peace of mind” by ensuring that their genitals would not touch porcelain.

Now, after trashing the idea of the Mueller investigation in 2017, Whitaker — flush with power — is the oddball sycophant charged with ensuring that Robert Mueller can finish his report.

I’m sure we have nothing to worry about, though. As Sarah Huckabee Sanders noted Friday, “There must be decorum at the White House.”

Matthew Whitaker and the Corruption of Justice ~ NYT Op/Ed

The real question isn’t whether the acting attorney general’s appointment is lawful, but whether it is part of a broader attempt to subvert the rule of law.

Credit Illustration by Na Kim; Photograph by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press
By forcing out Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appointing Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, as acting attorney general to take over the Justice Department — and, not incidentally, the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller — President Trump has set off a storm of legal questions.

Does the appointment of Mr. Whitaker comport with the Appointments Clause of the Constitution or the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998? Doesn’t the law give control of the department to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mr. Mueller and oversaw the investigation because Mr. Sessions had recused himself?

To add to the academic discussion, the Justice Department’s own Office of Legal Counsel, which weighs in on major legal questions, gave its imprimatur to Mr. Trump’s decision on Wednesday. Now the state of Maryland and at least one criminal defendant are challenging the legality of Mr. Whitaker’s appointment in hopes that a federal judge will declare it invalid.But all of this debate, hairsplitting and litigation distracts from a more persistent question: Is it O.K. for a president to shut down an investigation of himself? To answer that question yes is to take the position that not only this president, but any president in the future, is free to take the law into his own hands.

 

Mr. Whitaker is an avowed antagonist of Mr. Mueller — he has called the investigation a witch hunt, said Mr. Mueller’s team should not investigate Mr. Trump’s finances and suggested that an attorney general could slash the special counsel’s budget.

As if concerns about the Constitution, the law and Mr. Whitaker’s judgment weren’t enough, the broader picture that has emerged about Mr. Whitaker is even more disturbing. He has expressed skepticism toward Marbury v. Madison, the landmark case that established the concept of judicial review; he would support the confirmation of federal judges who hold “a biblical view of justice”; he may have prosecuted a political opponent for improper reasons when he was a federal prosecutor in Iowa; and then there’s the fiasco of his business involvement with a company accused of scamming customers that is being investigated by the F.B.I.

Justice Department regulations governing the day-to-day operations of the special counsel’s office allow for Mr. Whitaker to be read in on many of its inner workings, including that the acting attorney generalbe given “an explanation for any investigative or prosecutorial step” that Mr. Mueller decides to take. So there is nothing to keep Mr. Whitaker from being the president’s eyes and ears inside the most closely guarded investigation in the history of American politics.

On Thursday morning, the president rage-tweeted that Mr. Mueller was a “highly conflicted” person, leading a legal team that is “a total mess.” “They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want,”

 

Mr. Trump has reason to be worked up. On Wednesday, Mr. Mueller’s office told a federal judge that Rick Gates, the former deputy chairman of the Trump campaign, was still cooperating in “several ongoing investigations” and asked to delay Mr. Gates’s sentencing on charges — unrelated to the campaign — to which he had already pleaded guilty. On Monday, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who has also pleaded guilty to unrelated charges and is cooperating with Mr. Mueller, arrived in Washington with his criminal defense lawyers. A friend of the longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone said on Monday that Mr. Stone expected to be indicted on charges of lying to Mr. Mueller’s team. Mr. Trump announced on Friday that he was finished drafting written answers for the special counsel, who, for months, has sought the president’s testimony in key aspects of his inquiry.

So it’s understandable that Mr. Trump would want an ally to exercise control over prosecutors who are making his life a nightmare. This is only his latest effort to scuttle the investigation of ties between his campaign and Russia. Mr. Mueller owes his own appointment and mandate to the president’s firing of James Comey, the former F.B.I. director — one of Mr. Trump’s most overt attempts to interfere with an investigation that has haunted him since he took office. He has also moved to fire Mr. Mueller, only to be thwarted by more sensible aides.

Congress could pass a law to prevent the president from firing Mr. Mueller, but Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has shown no interest in doing that.

As Mr. Trump continues to work to undermine this investigation, Mr. McConnell and his fellow Republican leaders should pause to consider the standard, and the precedent, they are at a growing risk of setting.

What Happens When the Walls Finally Close in on Trump?

Mental health experts say his narcissism could make him capable of just about anything

US President Donald J. Trump responds to a question from the news media as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 09 November 2018.

There’s no restraints here. There’s nothing he won’t do,” says one psychologist. “And if it’s enormously destructive, that’s not actually a negative for him, that’s a positive.” SHAWN THEW/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Following a slew of tweets after the midterm elections congratulating himself on losing control of the House to Democrats, Trump had one clear-eyed, honest promise to Americans: “If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level. Two can play that game!”

Never mind that it was unclear what “Classified Information” he might be referring to, he ran with this stance at his subsequent press conference, assuring Americans that the bipartisan kumbaya that he was just longing to usher in would be immediately derailed by any attempt on the part of this new House to use its subpoena power to investigate him for corruption. “No,” he responded emphatically to a question about working together for America’s benefit even in the face of heightened investigation. “If they do that, then it’s just — all it is, is a warlike posture.” The threat was clear: Come after me, and I’ll come after you harder — even at America’s expense.

Since then, times have changed. The change.org petition “Mental Health Professionals Declare Trump is Mentally Ill And Must Be Removed” topped out at 70,760 signatures before it closed, many more shrinks have gone on the record with their diagnoses, and the attendees of an April 2017 Yale ethics conference overwhelmingly concluded that, apropos Trump, their psychiatric “duty to warn” in cases of danger to public health and safety far outweighed any other professional obligations.

When Trump first took office, of course, it was too early to say with certainty exactly how his psychology would play out. But it was predicted that he would systematically fire those closest to him; that the laws he pushed and the policies he enacted would not benefit America overall, but would benefit him (by either lining his pockets or stoking the affirmation loop of his basest base); that he would attack civil liberties; display further delusions; lie prodigiously and lash out against anyone who opposed him. Now we’ve seen that these predictions have come to pass.

“To be honest, I don’t think he’s done anything that I didn’t anticipate,” says Lance Dodes, a former professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who, when I interviewed him previously, said that Trump’s attacks on the media would only increase and that his reality-testing would only get worse.

But of course, being right is cold comfort for mental health professionals, especially when it comes to Trump’s sense of his own persecution as the Democratic House prepares to take office armed with the power of subpoena, his approval rating continues to lag (it’s now at 42 percent), and his fear of the Mueller investigation and paranoia about traitors in his midst continue to increase (“one of the fundamental components of narcissism is paranoia,” points out Gartner).

“People like Donald Trump who have severe narcissistic disturbances can’t tolerate being criticized,” says Dodes, “so the more they are challenged in this essential way, the more out of control they become. They change reality to suit themselves in their own mind.” And, as Dodes explains, it creates a vicious cycle: The more out of control Trump becomes, the more reason others have to challenge him, which only makes him more out of control. When he tells a rally crowd that America will become “a third-world country” if he gets impeached, that’s this defensive/delusional coupling playing out in real time.

Especially because the more destructive something is, the more it will create a distraction from what riled him up in the first place. “Anything you can imagine is not off the table,” Gartner continues. “Starting a war is very possible to distract from his wrongdoing and try to rally the country around him — that whole wag the dog scenario isn’t a joke. I think it’s actually very, very possible. I think he would love to do that. It’s going to be like a scorched-earth swath of destruction.”

It’s that prospect that terrifies Bandy Lee, an assistant clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine who specializes in the psychology of violence and was the editor of the New York Times bestseller The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. She hosted the Yale ethics conference, even before receiving a call in October 2017 from two White House officials “because the president was behaving in a manner that ‘scared’ them, and they believed he was ‘unraveling.’”

Yet Lee doesn’t think that it’s Trump’s diagnosis that matters but rather the context of it. “Mr. Trump as a person could be removed from office and no longer be dangerous,” she points out. But in office, his dangerousness is so profound that she believes he meets the criteria for immediate intervention. “He, through his own words, has expressed an attraction to nuclear weapons, a preoccupation with nuclear weapons, and has even asked why we have them if we won’t use them,” she says. “When someone is dangerous, that is considered an emergency, so you try to get the person’s consent, but if they don’t offer it then you have no choice but to treat. And that’s an obligation; that’s not a choice on the part of the physician. There ought to be a political equivalent.”

Now, with Democrats about to take control of the House, maybe there will be — if Trump and his “warlike posture” don’t burn the whole thing down first.

Getting Out The Youth Vote With A Dash Of Snark ~ “CALL THE COPS VIDEOS” ~ NPR

The Rōbert [Cholo] Report (pron: Rō'bear Re'por)

October 24, 20185:43 AM ET

ACRONYMYouTube

As midterm elections approach, politicians and activists are urging people to get out and vote, especially in places where races are close. One of the demographics they’re most worried about getting to the polls are young voters, who are often seen as uninvolved and/or apathetic.

That’s why the “Knock the Vote” project was created earlier this year by ACRONYM, a DC-based organization that uses social media and targeted digital media programs to push for progressive candidates.

“We try to reach people where they are,” says ACRONYM’S co-founder and CEO Tara McGowan. Where they are, increasingly, are on their cellphones or tablets, so ACRONYM’S videos are designed to be brief online bites that make you think.

Flipping the (racial) script

The company’s current campaign runs through election day and features quick (30 seconds or so) videos that aim to grab…

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