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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Donald Trump now has a better-than-50 percent chance of being the Republican nominee for president. And if either Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz doesn’t drop out soon, it will be closer to 100 percent. Trump has won two of the three primary contests and probably would have won Iowa, too, if Ted Cruz hadn’t convinced some caucus-goers that Ben Carson quit the race early to go home and get some pants.

Despite thousands of hours of media coverage, we just learned last week that — after accusing George W. Bush of lying us into Iraq — Trump has been lying about his own stance on the war. And we only learned that because of Buzzfeed. Trump has run a nearly fact-free campaign full of demagoguery, scapegoating and unqualified bullshit.

When it comes to policy, Trump is possibly less scary than Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz.

But when it comes to a tendency toward fascist thought (think mass deportations and a travel ban that would extend to 1.6 billion people), coupled with a fragile ego, fear of humiliation, and near-bloodlust for revenge, Trump is the scariest potential major party nominee in modern American history. Maybe there’s just too much garbage to sort — but this problem didn’t start last year.

Much as the Republican Party invited this disaster by indulging Trump’s birtherism in 2011-2012, the media abdicated their own journalistic responsibility by overexposing Trump without attempting to hold him accountable — a lunge for ratings on par with the role they played leading up to the Iraq War.

Here are five ways the press gave us Donald Trump.

  1. Presenting “both sides,” even if one stands opposite the facts.
    In place of the truth, the press often affects a sense of balance. Why else are conspiratorial climate-deniers booked as talk show guests opposite the scientific experts who represent the near-consensus of their academic fields? During this campaign, the media has attempted to equate Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump’s campaigns in order to further the narrative that both parties are sides of a coin. As if doing something to fight climate change and actively trying to make it worse — begging droughts, floods, and chaos — are two equally acceptable opinions. Sanders’s campaign is built on a health care promise that has been adopted by every advanced country on earth, and a promise of subsidized higher education that used to be the norm in much of the United States. The anger Sanders is harnessing is directed at a conservative culture that responded to the Great Recession with Citizens United, as if America’s biggest problem was that corporations didn’t yet have enough power. Trump is harnessing anger against immigrants when undocumented immigration is at a decades low. He’s fear-mongering against Muslims even though American Muslims have played a huge role in preventing terrorism since 9/11; even though more people in the United States will die this week from guns than have died from terrorist attacks since 9/11. Trump’s decades long media saturation gives his radical race-baiting a backdrop of normalcy — of convention. And the press’ need to affect balance leaves them incapable of explaining how dangerous he truly is. They simply cannot bear to say that there’s no analogy to Donald Trump on the left and no example of this sort of hate creeping into the mainstream since the height of George Wallace’s campaign against integration.
  2. Completely ignoring the Republicans’ demolition of political norms.
    In 2009, Republicans handed President Obama an economy engulfed in flames, and then blasted him for the deficit created by Bush-era policies. When a billionaire-backed Tea Party arose “spontaneously,” the press told us it was “non-partisan” and focused only on fiscal issues. When the GOP-controlled House refused to service our debt, causing a global financial panic, the press painted this as politics as usual, a problem Obama needed to fix. Today, the press is letting Republicans deny a president with more than 300 days left in office his choice of a Supreme Court nominee. In a world without accountability, everything is permitted.
  3. Indulging Trump’s whims with almost no accountability.
    Last Wednesday night, MSNBC — America’s “liberal” news channel — devoted a whole hour to a “town hall” with Donald Trump, something it has offered to no other single candidate. “Wednesday night, there was no mention of his racist comments toward Mexicans; his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin; or his stigmatization of Muslims,” Slate‘s Isaac Chotiner wrote. “He wasn’t pressed hard for any policy details, nor challenged about his well-catalogued dislike of the truth.” Instead, it was pure infomercial: Trump was treated like a Morning Joe cast member being honored for his place in the celebrity-political culture the show exists to venerate.
  4. Passing on nearly all coverage of his policies or past.
    Most of the coverage of Trump’s policy proposals is really just the press’ celebrating the notion that people don’t care about the details of his policies. They — much like Trump’s declarations of his net worth — make almost no sense. The Washington Post‘s Ruth Marcus actually did a bit of digging and found Trump’s platform “utterly ridiculous“: President Trump would, apparently, reduce the debt without cutting Medicare or Social Security, while offering trillions in tax breaks that go mostly to the rich and which would require eliminating the entire military several times over to balance the budget. It’s the height of insanity and instead, the media is off repeating whatever racist nonsense Trump’s managed, without much effort, to distract them with. And forget substantial questions about his past, or about the horrendously expensive-yet-useless wall he wants Mexico to pay for.
  5.  Tolerating his racism without inflicting any cost to his campaign.
    As Marco Rubio becomes more competitive, Trump is beginning to hint that he will go “birther” on the senator — who was born in Miami. Trump’s evidence that Rubio isn’t a “natural born citizen” is a substantive as his evidence that Barack Obama wasn’t — skin color. Today, Trump won’t even comment on the Obama birtherism that made him a conservative star. And instead of pointing out the obvious racism in his attack — and his many others, including the hideous slander of the so-called “Central Park 5” and his scapegoating of Mexican immigrants — the press is treating it like any other political argument. Because their only fear is that he won’t give them another interview.

Photo: Donald Trump speaks at a rally  at the Sumter Civic Center in Sumter, South Carolina, February 17, 2016.  REUTERS/Randall Hill


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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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