Tag Archives: Donald Trump

January 6: A Date Which, in One Key Respect, Will Live in Infamy Even Worse Than Pearl Harbor

[Note from BenIndy: This post was first published on Stephen Golub’s blog, A Promised Land: America as a Developing Country. There, Steve blogs about domestic and international politics and policy, including lessons that the United States can learn from other nations. If interested, you may sign up for future posts by subscribing to the blog. The images showing featured in this post were added by BenIndy editors and are not original to Steve’s post.]

By Stephen Golub, January 5, 2024

Benicia resident and author Stephen Golub, A Promised Land.

December 7. September 11. And as we recall the third anniversary of the U.S. Capitol being seized by rioters, January 6 has joined the ranks of the most horrible days in American history. In the words FDR applied to Pearl Harbor, it is a “a date which will live in infamy.”

Thankfully, the January 6, 2021 insurrection did not wreak nearly the massive deaths nor physical havoc of those other two days. But in one crucial respect, it’s proven even worse.

How so? In the wake of December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001, the country came together in the face of massive challenges to our democracy and way of life. In contrast, the time since Insurrection Day has seen us more divided than ever. What’s more, we face the distinct prospect of the person who prompted the insurrection – and a wide array of other attempts to subvert the 2020 election results – being returned to the presidency this year.

Lies have been piled on lies, to portray the insurrectionists as heroes. A quarter of Americans believe that the FBI probably or definitely organized and encouraged the attack; fewer than half of us say that it probably or definitely did not do so.

The original, underlying sin of the insurrection and Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election was his misbegotten claim that Joe Biden stole it. Yet, as former Rep. Liz Cheney has pointed out, “There were over 60 court cases where judges, including judges appointed by President Trump and other Republican presidents, looked at the evidence in many cases and said there is not widespread fraud.”

Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results. | Ahmed Gaber/ Reuters.

To further hammer home this same point, eight leading Republican legal luminaries published a 2022 report that explained that the 2020 election was lost by Trump, not stolen by Biden. The group included two former U.S. senators, two former federal judges and a former chief of staff to two Republican congressional majority leaders. As he explained in asserting the Biden’s election was valid, “I’m certainly not a ‘Never-Trumper.’ I voted for Donald Trump twice for President.”

Trump’s legal allies failed in 61 of 64 cases. Even their three “wins” were minor, technical exceptions to the rule, all in Pennsylvania and none of them undercutting the validity of Biden’s victory there: They “threw out 270 provisional ballots lacking signatures, separated Election Day provisional ballots from those cast afterward, and moved back Pa.’s deadline for absentee voters to present voter ID by three days.”

I’m belaboring the point about these lawsuits because the conclusions by Republican judges and attorneys constitute key parts of the overwhelming proof that Trump has misled his followers – the over a thousand insurrectionists and the many millions of others – about 2020. Yet an August CNN poll found that two-thirds of Republican still attribute his loss to voter fraud.

Which brings us back to the insurrection, and the one respect in which January 6 was worse than December 7 and September 11, for all of their horrors.

Supporters of Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. | Brent Stirton / Getty Images.

Here’s how it’s worse: The drive to undermine our democracy continues. It includes Trump’s election denialism, as well as his Hitleresque attacks on political opponents as “vermin” and on undocumented aliens as “poisoning the blood of our country.”

But it also includes so much more. Just a partial compilation of Trump’s anti-democratic attitudes, actions statements and online activity includes his: excusing the January 6 insurrection; suggesting that the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff deserved execution; accusing NBC of treason and threatening to deny it airwaves access; threatening and otherwise attempting to intimidate judicial system personnel and witnesses; stating that he has “no choice” but to lock up certain political opponents if elected – even contemplating indicting Biden; praising Hungary’s authoritarian leader (as well as like-minded figures such as Vladimir Putin); and planning to politicize the federal civil service to do his political bidding.

Phil ScroggsUnsplash.

However, there’s another compilation we can take into account as we ponder January 6. It lists what we can do to prevent that date of infamy from defining not just our recent past, but our impending future. It’s what we can do to help save democracy. Here are a few such actions from that lengthy list:

First and foremost, voting for democracy, which means for Biden (or, in the unlikely event he does not run, whomever else the Democrats nominate). Personally, I believe he’s accomplished a lot. But you don’t have to be a fan of Joe to cast your vote for him. Recognizing the threat that Trump represents, a very conservative friend of mine (who thinks that Biden is lousy) intends to do so.

Not voting for a third party candidate, and not simply sitting out the election, even if you’re a progressive who feels Biden has fallen short. The choice is either/or: not voting for Biden only helps Trump. This election will be decided by voter turnout and whom people turn out for – we need only bear in mind 2000 and 2016 to recall the consequences of third party candidates’ impacts.

Finally, a biggie: Becoming politically active, whether it’s through donations, phone banks, canvassing, writing letters to editors, helping out in toss-up states or seeking to influence friends and relatives on the fence. Democracy is not a spectator sport.

Once more, Steve blogs about domestic and international politics and policy, including lessons that the United States can learn from other nations, at A Promised Land: America as a Developing Country. We recommend you sign up for future posts by subscribing to the blog.


MORE POSTS FROM STEPHEN GOLUB:

‘Grifters and sycophants’: the radicals who would fill key posts if Trump is re-elected

Controversial former Trump aide Stephen Miller’s legal group is seeking lawyers with total fealty to ex-president

The Guardian, by Peter Stone, 8 Dec 2023

As Donald Trump and his allies start plotting another presidency, an emerging priority is to find hard-right lawyers who display total fealty to Trump, as a way to enhance his power and seek “retribution” against political foes.

Stocking a future administration with more ideological lawyers loyal to Trump in key posts at the justice department, other agencies and the White House is alarming to former DoJ officials and analysts who say such plans endanger the rule of law.

Trump’s former senior adviser Stephen Miller, president of the Maga-allied legal group America First Legal, is playing a key role in seeking lawyers fully in sync with Trump’s radical agenda to expand his power and curb some major agencies. His search is for those with unswerving loyalty to Trump, who could back Trump’s increasingly authoritarian talk about plans to “weaponize” the DoJ against critics, including some he has labeled as “vermin”.

Miller is well known in Maga circles for his loyalty to Trump and the hard-line anti-immigration policies he helped craft for Trump’s presidency. Notably, Trump has vowed to make those policies even more draconian if he is the GOP nominee and wins again.

Such an advisory role for Miller squares with Trump’s desire for a tougher brand of lawyer who will not try to obstruct him, as some top administration lawyers did in late 2020 over his false claims about election fraud.

“Trump doesn’t care about the rule of law or the quality of the criminal justice system. He only cares about fealty to him.” – Former Trump White House lawyer Ty Cobb

“They’re looking for lawyers who worship Trump and will do his bidding,” Ty Cobb, a former White House lawyer during the Trump years and former justice department official, said. “Trump is looking to Miller to pick people who will be more loyal to Trump than the rule of law.”

Cobb added that “Trump trusts Miller greatly”, although Miller is not a lawyer.“Trump doesn’t care about the rule of law or the quality of the criminal justice system,” Cobb said. “He only cares about fealty to him.”

Miller’s legal group, which raked in a hefty $44m dollars in 2022, also has a board seat with Project 2025, a sprawling effort led by the Heritage Foundation and dozens of other conservative groups to map policy plans for a second Trump term – or another GOP presidency if Trump is not the nominee.

Project 2025 includes schemes to curb the justice department, the FBI and other agencies, giving Trump more power to seek revenge – as he has pledged to do in campaign speeches and Truth Social posts – against critics in both parties, which could benefit from conservative lawyers’ sign-offs, but which justice department veterans warn would undermine the legal system.

It seems that they are looking for lawyers who will do whatever Trump wants them to do, and that is the antithesis of implementing the rule of law,” Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general under George HW Bush, said.

“When you consider the number of lawyers who became Trump’s severe critics after joining the first Trump administration and participating in a lot of questionable actions, selection for a new administration will have to exclude pretty much anyone who has any inclination to defend our legal system or question the president asserting absolute authority.”

Ayer’s analysis is underscored by Trump’s 2020 anger at top lawyers such as the then attorney general William Barr, the then White House counsel Pat Cipollone and others, who pushed back on Trump for his false claims that he lost to Biden due to fraud.

Trump has cited Barr – one of several former top lawyers and officials who later became critics – as someone he would press the justice department to launch inquiries against, according to the Washington Post.

The former president, who faces 91 criminal charges in four jurisdictions including 17 involving his aggressive efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat, has also threatened to appoint a special prosecutor to “go after” Biden and his family.

Donald Trump scowling into camera. Getty Images

Trump has attacked the prosecutions against him as political witch-hunts, arguing they give him the right if he wins the presidency again to use the justice department and FBI as tools to attack his opponents.

Trump’s retribution agenda was partly revealed on Tuesday at a Fox News town hall, when he slyly said if he was elected again he would not be a dictator “except for day one”.

To help facilitate Trump’s agenda, Miller plus the former Trump aide John McEntee, who started as Trump’s personal aide and then became a key adviser in 2020, have reportedly been working with others at Project 2025 to identify tougher pro-Trump lawyers.

Besides Miller’s group, numerous conservative groups have board seats on Project 2025 including the Center for Renewing America, a thinktank run by the former Trump budget director Russ Vought. The center employs Jeffrey Clark, a former justice department official who pushed false information about voting fraud in 2020 as part of Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss. Clark has written a paper that Vought’s center published titled The US Justice Department Is Not Independent.

However, Clark and several other former Trump lawyers are now facing major legal headaches after aiding Trump’s efforts to block Biden’s victory, which could complicate Miller’s hunt for new diehard Trump lawyers.

“This is a search for people with situational ethics.” – Timothy Naftali of Columbia University

Clark and other key conservative lawyers including Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman have been charged by the Fulton county, Georgia, district attorney, Fani Willis, in a sprawling racketeering case against Trump and 18 others for seeking to thwart Biden’s Georgia victory. Other Trump legal advisers who were charged, including Kenneth Chesebro, Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis, have struck plea deals with Willis.

Some experts foresee real dangers to democracy in Miller’s search for lawyers who would back Trump’s emerging far-right agenda.

“This is a search for people with situational ethics,” Timothy Naftali, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, said.

“They’re trying to screen out people who have higher loyalties to the US constitution. It’s likely they’re looking for people whose higher loyalty is to Donald Trump,” he said. “They’re trying to find lawyers who believe in dictatorship. You have to wonder what kind of people in good conscience could sign up for a Trump revenge tour. This appears to be a casting call for an American political horror movie.”

If Trump wins, some of the lawyers who may be candidates for key posts according to the New York Times include a few who work at either Miller’s group or have worked for Texas’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, a close Trump and Miller ally who has faced several ethics and criminal inquiries.

Miller and his legal center did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Miller’s lawyer search could benefit from his group’s contacts in Maga circles and rapid growth. When America First Legal was launched in 2021, it soon garnered $1.3m from the Maga-allied Conservative Partnership Institute, where Trump’s ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows is a senior official. Meadows and Vought have both served on the board of Miller’s group.

America First Legal’s deep pockets have helped fund an array of lawsuits against the Biden administration, states targeting immigration policies and what Miller has labeled “the equity cult”. Just last month, America First Legal filed a brief opposing the limited gag order placed on Trump by a federal judge overseeing special counsel Jack Smith’s four-count criminal indictment of Trump for election subversion.

More broadly, the mission statement of Miller’s America First Legal reveals its ideological compatibility with Trump’s authoritarian-leaning agenda, of which hard-right lawyers would be assets in implementing should Trump get another term.

“Our security, our liberty, our sovereignty, and our most fundamental rights and values are being systematically dismantled by an unholy alliance of corrupt special interests, big tech titans, the fake news media, and liberal Washington politicians,” the mission statement reads.

Given Miller’s strong ties to Trump, some GOP congressional veterans are alarmed by his search for more ideological lawyers who would not question Trump’s emerging authoritarian agenda.

“They’re looking for grifters and sycophants like Jeffrey Clark and Ken Paxton,” said the former House member Charlie Dent.

In Dent’s eyes, these kinds of lawyers would “do whatever they’re told. This is absolutely dangerous.”

Stephen Golub: This Thanksgiving, Let’s Be Thankful for What We Don’t Have

By Stephen Golub, November 23, 2023, previously published in the Benicia Herald

Benicia resident and author Stephen Golub, A Promised Land

Each Thanksgiving, and whenever I need to remind myself to feel thankful, my mind turns to an interview I conducted in a Southeast Asian refugee camp decades ago…

Back in 1985, fresh out of law school, I was dispatched by a U.S. human rights group to document and write a report about a torrent of abuses against 370,000 Cambodians who had escaped across the border of their war-torn homeland to find precarious shelter in refugee camps in Thailand. Most had languished there since fleeing the 1979 Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia.

The savagery threatening the refugees took appalling forms: unspeakable brutality by Thai soldiers assigned to protect them, by rampaging gangs of Cambodian bandits and by Cambodian resistance militias battling the Vietnamese occupation, ostensibly on their behalf; deadly shelling of the camps by Vietnamese artillery based just a few miles away, in Cambodia; and brutal repression in the few camps controlled by the remnants of the fanatical Khmer Rouge regime, which had once ruled their country in a reign of terror. 

Every day for over two weeks, I spent dawn to dusk interviewing as many victims as my (non-refugee) Cambodian interpreter/guide could find. At the end of the trip, in Bangkok, I met with a Thai general who dismissed his troops’ cruelty with the glib observation that “boys will be boys.”

That chat was a doozy. But an interview with a particular refugee stood out far more. The memory has both haunted and moved me over the years…

Darkness was descending on the largest refugee camp, Nong Samet, when a furious, feisty, elderly woman rushed up to my interpreter and me. She’d heard that we were seeking victims to interview. We met with her and her 15-year-old granddaughter in a bamboo hut. The first thing that caught my eye was the circular scar, a healed bullet wound, spanning the girl’s wrist.

Getting shot was not the most recent attack that she had suffered, however. Just a month before my visit, a Thai soldier had viciously assaulted the girl, apparently as punishment for her sneaking to a banned edge of the camp to get water. She described the crime through a sea of tears. The crippled wrist, crushed spirit and brutalized body seemed to encapsulate the terrors visited upon her people. 

Many months later, colleagues and press coverage informed me that my resulting report, along with other types of pressure, helped spark Thai government action to better protect the refugees. But the abuses did not come to an absolute end until 1993, when a peace treaty finally led to the Vietnamese army’s withdrawal from Cambodia, the camps’ closure and the refugees’ repatriation.

Why in the world am I recounting this story, from so long ago, on the cusp of Thursday’s happy holiday? 

Each Thanksgiving, we break bread with friends and family. We toast with those loved ones. We’re thankful for what we have, as well we should be. 

But we might also pause to be thankful for what we don’t have. 

By and large, in America and other privileged nations, we don’t have our lives filled by wars, starvation, devastation and repression that plague many parts of the globe. Most of us don’t have the hunger and poverty that mar the lives of millions of fellow Americans.

While giving thanks, perhaps we can pledge to take whatever small steps we can toward the cures for such ills, at home or abroad.

My point here, however, is not just about suffering. It’s also about the incredible human spirit, strength and courage that enable people to survive horrific situations and to help each other despite the dangers and deprivation they face.

I have no idea what became of the specific refugees I interviewed in Nong Samet and the other camps back in 1985. But I do know that the remarkable resilience of the Cambodians there enabled most of them to endure, so as to eventually return home safely or resettle here in America. 

With all of this in mind, this Thursday, I’ll reflect on a post-it note I wrote years ago. I still have it stuck to the corner of my laptop screen. 

I glance at the note almost every day. I particularly value it when I’m feeling less than thankful and need a reminder about my own blessed lot in life. 

The note reads, “The Girl at Nong Samet.”

So here’s a toast to whatever you do to remain thankful throughout the year. And Happy Thanksgiving. 


MORE POSTS FROM STEPHEN GOLUB:

PBS News Hour – American democracy is in an uncharted and fragile place

‘Tyranny of the Minority’ writers say Constitution not strong enough to protect democracy

[It’s not like we haven’t heard this before from Rachel Maddow, Professor Timothy Snyder and the “liberal” media.  The significance here is the boldness of PBS News Hour to broadcast truth to the general public.  If you don’t have time for the excellent 7 minute interview, see below the video for my summary of the two Harvard government professors’ main points and recommendations.  – BenIndy Contributor Roger Straw]

Amna Nawaz is an American broadcast journalist and a co-anchor of the PBS NewsHour.

>> America’s democracy is in an uncharted and fragile place, according to two Harvard government professors. In their new book, “Tyranny of the Minority,” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt say politicians are welcoming anti-democratic extremists into their party ranks and part of the problem lies in the Constitution. Laura Barrón-López spoke with the writers about how the country got to this point.

Introduction and thesis
Laura Barrón-López is the White House Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, where she covers the Biden administration for the nightly news broadcast. She is also a CNN political analyst. Previously, Barrón-López was a White House reporter for POLITICO.

Laura Barron-Lopez: One of America’s two major political parties has turned away from democracy, warn Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. One key accomplice to the backsliding, they say, are politicians called semi-loyalists, who rather than expel anti-democratic extremists from their party ranks, accept and make room for them. Why is this happening? Their new book, “Tyranny of the minority,” concludes that part of the problem lies in the constitution. They joined me now. Thank you so much for joining. Steve, can you first establish we knew, as someone as an expert in the collapse of democracies, diagnosed that there is now a popular authoritarian movement within the Republican party?

Diagnosis

To be a party committed to democracy, you have to do three simple things:

  1. First, you have to accept election losses win or lose.
  2. Number two, you have to not use violence to gain or hold onto power.
  3. And three, most critically in some sense, for mainstream political parties, you have to distance yourself and be explicit and open about  condemning anybody who’s an ally of your party that commits any of those first two types of acts.

Over the past four years, we have seen a decay of that in the Republican party, including among mainstream members of the senate. This is a violation of that third principle, people who knew what was happening on January 6 and did very little to stop it.

What can be done?

Laura: Daniel, your book warns that the constitution, the world’s oldest written constitution, is part of the problem, is part of what is imperiling democracy.  What changes do you think need to be made?
Daniel: Some of the things we  discussed in the book, we have a 15 point set of suggestions in our last chapter, including

  1. Eliminating the electoral college. We are the only democracy in the world with the electoral college,
  2. Introducing term limits and retirement ages for the supreme court — we are the only democracy in the developed world that does not have term limits for judges.
  3. We also have proposals that do not require constitutional reform, like eliminating or weakening the filibuster. We are the only democracy in the world that has such a strong tool of obstruction in our chambers of congress. This often blocks majority supported policies, gun-control, efforts to address climate
    change, minimum-wage. Things get held up in the  national congress which frustrates citizens.
Regaining faith in the political system

These things could have a sweeping reform agenda. We have discovered that when constitutional reforms come, they tend to cluster together. People regain faith in their political system. This is part of the American tradition, whereas today we are operating outside the American tradition. This is something we need to get back to.