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

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

On Wednesday, a noose was found at an exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Visitors to the museum alerted staffers and park police shut down the exhibit, which focused on segregation, for three hours while the noose was removed and the event investigated. Linda St. Thomas, a spokesperson for the Smithsonian, told the Huffington Post that museum officials weren’t sure how long the noose had been there, but that the specificity of its placement was unmistakable. “It was in a public space outside,” St. Thomas told the outlet, “but this was obviously intended to be in the segregation exhibition.”

This is the second noose found on museum grounds in less than a week. Last Friday, a Smithsonian police officer discovered a noose hanging from a tree on the grounds of the Hirshhorn Museum. The noose was removed, a criminal investigation launched and members of the public asked to provide any leads to police. An article on the Smithsonian website stressed that “the museum is safe” to both visitors and museum staff.

Lonnie Bunch, the Smithsonian’s director, sent a letter to staff on the heels of the latest incident. “The noose has long represented a deplorable act of cowardice and depravity—a symbol of extreme violence for African Americans,” it read. “Today’s incident is a painful reminder of the challenges that African Americans continue to face.”

This was followed by an email from Smithsonian secretary David Skorton. “The Smithsonian family stands together in condemning this act of hatred and intolerance, especially repugnant in a museum that affirms and celebrates the American values of inclusion and diversity,” Skorton wrote. “We will not be intimidated. Cowardly acts like these will not, for one moment, prevent us from the vital work we do.”

Nooses are potent symbols of anti-black racial hatred and violence. They reference the years of American history—that is, the majority of this country’s existence—when African Americans were regularly lynched by white mobs, who often made a day of it, picnicking nearby and then posing with the bodies in photos that became postcards. The infractions for which black folks were lynched included “bumping into a white person, or wearing their military uniforms after World War I, or not using the appropriate title when addressing a white person,” according to the Equal Justice Initiative. This was terrorism against African Americans, sanctioned and not infrequently carried out by the state.

The perpetrators of these recent hate crimes at the museum intended to conjure up fear and pain by leaving those nooses, which in black Americans’ consciousness and collective memory, are imbued with both. This is not an isolated incident. Racist aggression has been a part of America’s character since its founding, but Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency have emboldened racial terrorists like few things in recent memory. The Smithsonian points out that the Southern Poverty Law Center documented more than 1,300 hate crimes “between the 2016 election and February 2017.” The Smithsonian catalogs some of these ugly displays:

These ominous reminders of America’s dark history with lynching have appeared around the country, from a school in Missouri to a series of four nooses hung around a construction site in Maryland. Other nooses have been found on the Duke University campus, the Port of Oakland in California, a fraternity house at the University of Maryland, a middle school in Maryland, and at a high school in Lakewood, California.

There are more, of course. In early May, bananas hanging by nooses were left around the campus of American University the same day the college’s first African-American student government president took office. More recently, three people were killed by white supremacists in a week’s span: black college student and Army officer Richard W. Collins III in Maryland, and two men who were attempting to defend teen girls from a racist attacker in Portland.

Just as with the terrorist murders of six Muslims in a Quebec mosque and the shooting of two men in Kansas, the president’s response was silence, although he did find time to tweet more than 20 times about fake news and the election win of a Montana GOP politician who had physically attacked a reporter. When a presidential tweet finally did appear about the Portland murders—a generic, mild condemnation of the attacks—it came from the @POTUS account, which is managed by staffers, not the president himself.

It’s a myth that things have calmed down since the days following Trump’s inauguration, when hate crimes spiked around the country. The news is so crammed with stories about the myriad issues within the administration—its possibly treasonous ties to Russia, its unconstitutional profiteering, its general kleptocratic practices— that they drown out nearly everything else. But the racism Trump exploited and exacerbated hasn’t gone away. Far from it.

The dizzying pace of the Trump scandal cycle means less coverage, but with a president whose silence speaks volumes, his followers receive the message loud and clear. Andrew Anglin, a white supremacist who supported Trump for president (they all did, actually) once wrote that Trump had given the “full-wink-wink-wink to his most aggressive supporters.” Those angry Trump supporters are not shutting up or backing down, and this president is certainly not pretending he’s asked them to. They are still making violent threats and carrying them out.

In a courtroom Tuesday, Jeremy Joseph Christian, the suspect in the Portland stabbing, called the murders an act of “patriotism.” We have a president who will not contradict that idea.

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.


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  • 1.Why did Trump choose to hide certain specific files and not others at Mar-a-Lago? What were the criteria that Trump used to keep some files concealed and not others? Who selected those files? Did Trump consult or direct anyone in his selection of secret files? Trump was notorious for being too impatient to read his briefing papers, even after they had been drastically shortened and simplified. Is there the slightest evidence that he spirited these papers away so that he could consult or study them? Who besides Trump knew of the presence of the files he had concealed at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 2. Mar-a-Lago has an infamous reputation for being open to penetration even by foreign spies. In 2019, the FBI arrested a Chinese woman who had entered the property with electronic devices. She was convicted of trespassing, lying to the Secret Service, and sentenced and served eight-months in a federal prison, before being deported to China. Have other individuals with possible links to foreign intelligence operations been present at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 3. Did members of Trump's Secret Service detail have knowledge of his secret storage of the files at Mar-a-Lago? What was the relationship of the Secret Service detail to the FBI? Did the Secret Service, or any agent, disclose information about the files to the FBI?
  • 4. Trump's designated representatives to the National Archives are Kash Patel and John Solomon, co-conspirators in the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016, the Ukraine missiles-for-political dirt scandal that led to the first impeachment in 2019, and the coup of 2020. Neither has any professional background in handling archival materials. Patel, a die-hard Trump loyalist whose last job in the administration was as chief of staff to the Acting Secretary of Defense, was supposedly involved in Trump’s “declassification” of some files. Patel has stated, “Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves."
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  • 5. Why did Trump keep his pardon of Roger Stone among his secret files? Was it somehow to maintain leverage over Stone? What would that leverage be? Would it involve Stone's role as a conduit with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers during the coup? Or is there another pardon in Trump’s files for Stone, a secret pardon for his activities in the January 6th insurrection? Because of the sweeping nature of the pardon clause, pardons can remain undisclosed (until needed). Pardons are self-executing, require no justification and are not subject to court review beyond the fact of their timely execution. In other words, a court may verify the pardon was valid in time but has no power to review appropriateness. A pardon could even be oral but would need to be verifiable by a witness. Do the files contain secret pardons for Trump himself, members of his family, members of the Congress, and other co-conspirators?
  • 6.Was the FBI warrant obtained to block the imminent circulation or sale of information in the files to foreign powers? Does the affidavit of the informant at Mar-a-Lago, which has not been released, provide information about Trump’s monetization that required urgency in executing the warrant? Did Trump monetize information in any of the files? How? With whom? Any foreign power or entity? Was the Saudi payment from its sovereign wealth fund for the LIV Golf Tournament at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club for a service that Trump rendered, an exchange of anything of value or information that was in the files? If it involved information in the files was it about nuclear programs? Was it about the nuclear program of Israel? How much exactly was the Saudi payment for the golf tournament? The Saudi sovereign wealth fund gave Jared Kushner and former Trump Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin $2 billion for their startup hedge fund, Affinity Partners. Do the Saudis regard that investment as partial payment for Trump’s transfer of nuclear information? Were Kushner or Mnuchin aware of the secret files at Mar-a-Lago?
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  • 8.Were any of the secrets of our allies compromised? Has the U.S. government provided an inventory of breaches or potential breaches to our allies?
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