Category Archives: Republican Party

‘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.”

‘The Conspiracy to End America’

[BenIndy contributor Roger Straw: I’m not an easy adopter of conspiracy theories. But Stuart Stevens describes an alarming historical pattern that is rearing its head here in the U.S. – both quietly behind the scenes, and increasingly and alarmingly more plainly in public. Yes, I am alarmed. Stevens outlines the historic factors that have led to absolute and catastrophic authoritarian rule, and outlines ways in which we can and must be alert to such factors today, and active in opposing them. This analysis has risen to the very top of my activist concerns for our times. This important PBS interview is only 6 minutes – take a listen!]

Former Republican strategist raises alarms about GOP in ‘The Conspiracy to End America’

AMNA NAWAZ: Stuart Stevens has spent the majority of his decades-long career getting Republicans elected to political office. But his latest book is a warning to the country about the current state of the GOP and its threat to America’s democracy.


Stuart Stevens, Ex-Republican strategist, raises alarms about the GOP in ‘The Conspiracy to End America’

Amna Nawas spoke with Stuart Stevens about the book titled, “The Conspiracy to End America: Five Ways My Old Party Is Driving Our Democracy to Autocracy.”

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Stuart Stevens’ book at Bookshop Benicia: https://bookshopbenicia.indielite.org/book/9781538765401

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.

‘Tonight, the nation marks the end of the Republican Party’

THE LINCOLN PROJECT STATEMENT ON LIZ CHENEY’S PRIMARY LOSS

The Lincoln Project, August 16, 2022

Liz Cheney, conceding defeat on August 16, 2022. “As we leave here, let us resolve that we will stand together — Republicans, Democrats and independents — against those who would destroy our republic.”
The Lincoln Project releases the following statement on the primary loss of Liz Cheney:

“Tonight, the nation marks the end of the Republican Party. What remains shares the name and branding of the traditional GOP, but is in fact an authoritarian nationalist cult dedicated only to Donald Trump.

“Liz Cheney stood up to the lawless, reckless attack on our nation led by Donald Trump and millions of Americans saw leadership that transcended ideological boundaries. For standing up to Donald Trump and working to hold accountable those responsible for his violent insurrection, Liz Cheney risked and lost her political career as a Republican.

“The Wyoming GOP, supported by millions of corporate dollars from Kevin McCarthy, nominated a reality-denying conspiracy theorist who promotes the “Big Lie” and bends a knee to Donald Trump.

“Liz Cheney showed America what a dedicated public servant driven by principle is like; it’s no wonder today’s GOP hates her. She remains an essential leader of the pro-democracy forces in the United States today and we encourage her to continue to engage in the fight to save our Republic and protect our democracy.

“The way she fought this race has only increased her stature among people setting aside their partisan differences to fight for democracy. We thank her for her service, and look forward to seeing her next chapter. America needs her and more people like her.”

The Lincoln Project is a leading pro-democracy organization in the United States — dedicated to the preservation, protection, and defense of democracy.

To learn more about The Lincoln Project, go to lincolnproject.us.