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Investigations

Ivanka Trump, center, with Jared Kushner, left

Photo by The White House is marked with CC PDM 1.0

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

On April 13, Axios reported the launch of America First Policy Institute, a nonprofit self-described "research institute" with a $20 million budget and a roster of staffers drawn from among figures involved in scandal after scandal during Donald Trump's one term in the White House.

Axios said that the organization's mission is to continue and spread Trump's policies.

The list of former Trump administration figures involved with the institute is long as it begins its work, according to its website, to "conduct research and develop policies that put the American people first." The site also says, "Our guiding principles are liberty, free enterprise, national greatness, American military superiority, foreign-policy engagement in the American interest, and the primacy of American workers, families, and communities in all we do."

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump

Although they are not officially listed on the group's list of staffers, Axios' Mike Allen reports that Trump and her husband, Kushner, will serve as "informal advisers" to the organization. Both served in her father's administration as senior White House officials.

Like her father, Ivanka Trump during her time in the White House made millions of dollars in personal profit through business dealings involving the Trump Organization.

Among the highlights of her tenure as official adviser to her father were her hosting of an event on human trafficking that was boycotted by advocates who called them "a photo op"; her response to a question about her father's separation of immigrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border that the policy was "not part of my portfolio"; and her advice to people who'd lost their jobs during the pandemic to "find something new."

When her father was sued by New York Attorney General Letitia James for misusing funds raised by the Donald J. Trump Foundation to pay off business debts and promote his presidential campaign and was forced to pay a $2 million settlement, the attorney general's office announced, "Another stipulation ensures that Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump received training on the duties of officers and directors of charities so that they cannot allow the illegal activity they oversaw at the Trump Foundation to take place again."

Donald Trump tasked Kushner with coordinating the states' response to the coronavirus pandemic, a haphazard and poorly organized process that resultedin shortages of vital equipment as thousands of Americans were dying. Yet even as the death toll passed 58,000 on its way to more than 562,000 to date, Kushner appeared on Fox News and described his work as a "great success story."

Trump also put Kushner in charge of negotiating a Middle East peace plan, which resulted in an 80-page proposal and a map that was almost immediately rejected by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who called it "nonsense."

Brooke Rollins

Rollins, the president and CEO of America First Policy Institute, served as acting director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. In that role, she helped develop Trump's response to protests against racist police brutality: an orderthat referred to "instances in which some officers have misused their authority" and did nothing to address the systemic nature of police violence against Black people and other people of color.

Paula White-Cain

White-Cain is listed, on a page of America First Policy Institute's website that features Maya Angelou's advice "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time," as chair of the institute's Center for American Values.

White-Cain is a preacher of the Christian "prosperity gospel," the belief that God rewards believers with wealth, who served as Trump's spiritual adviser during his time in the White House. Among her speeches during that time were her prayer for Trump in 2019:

Lord, we ask you to deliver our president from any snare, any setup of the enemy ... Any persons [or] entities that are aligned against the president will be exposed and dealt with and overturned by the superior blood of Jesus. ... we come against the strongmen, especially Jezebel, that which would operate in sorcery and witchcraft, that which would operate in hidden things, veiled things, that which would operate in deception.

Linda McMahon

Linda McMahon, who led the Small Business Administration under Trump, is the chair of the board of America First Policy Institute.

Emails released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request showed that the Small Business Administration under McMahon held an event in 2017 at Trump's hotel in Washington, D.C., and instructed staffers to avoid letting on where the event was being held.

Larry Kudlow

Kudlow is vice chair of America First Policy Institute's board and chair of its Center for American Prosperity. He served as director of the National Economic Council in the Trump administration.

Kudlow is notorious for, among other things, his declaration in Feb. 2020 that the COVID-19 outbreak had been "contained" in the United States and that the situation was "pretty close to airtight." A month later, he advised Americans to "stay at work," despite the extremely dangerous risk of viral transmission in offices.

Pam Bondi

Bondi serves as chair of America First Policy Institute's Center for Law and Justice. A former Florida attorney general, Bondi was part of the defense team in Trump's first impeachment trial.

Bondi declined to prosecute Trump's for-profit university for fraud in 2013 despite dozens of complaints from Florida residents. At the same time, she received a donation from Trump for her reelection campaign. Trump eventually paid out $25 million in a settlement with students who said he had duped them.

As an adviser to Trump's 2020 reelection campaign, Bondi promoted lies about election fraud as it became clear that Trump was going to lose. She claimed without any evidence that "fake ballots" were cast for Joe Biden in Pennsylvania and that there was "evidence of cheating."

Jack Brewer

Brewer, a former member of the organization Black Voices for Trump, serves as chair of the institute's Center for Opportunity Now.

In August 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed insider trading charges against Brewer, alleging that he sold stock shares after receiving information that their value would drop.

In a speech that same month at the Republican National Convention, Brewer falsely claimed that Trump hadn't called white supremacists who rioted in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 "very fine people."

Keith Kellogg

Kellogg served as acting national security adviser to both Trump and Mike Pence. He is the co-chair of the institute's Center for American Security.

In November 2019, Kellogg said of his involvement in a phone call during which Trump pressured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to announce an investigation into alleged wrongdoing by Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, "I heard nothing wrong or improper on the call. I had and have no concerns."

Rick Perry

Former Texas Gov. Perry, who served as Trump's secretary of energy, is listed as the chair of the institute's Center for Energy Independence.

As secretary of energy, Perry pressured the Ukrainian gas company Naftogaz to install one of his former political donors on its board of directors.

After Texas suffered dangerous blackouts during a major winter storm earlier this year, Perry said residents of the state would rather "be without electricity" than allow the federal government to impose more regulations on energy delivery.

John Ratcliffe

Ratcliffe, the co-chair of the institute's Center for American Security, represented Texas' 4th Congressional District in the House and was a staunch defender of Trump, later serving as his director of national intelligence.

Ratcliffe withdrew his first nomination for the position in 2019 after it emergedthat he had inflated his resume and lied about his role in convicting terror suspects when he was a federal prosecutor.

As director, Ratcliffe strategically released portions of intelligence assessments with the intent of harming Democrats.

The New York Times reported in 2020 that then-CIA director Gina Haspel opposed Ratcliffe's declassification of material out of concern that it "could jeopardize spies' ability to gather intelligence and endanger their sources."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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Pro-Trump insurrection at US Capitol, January 6, 2021

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Analysis published by the Washington Post on Monday shows that in 2020, Donald Trump's last year in the White House, the number of far-right domestic terrorism incidents in the United States hit a 26-year high.

The Post analysis, based on data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, found that in 2020, there were 73 incidents carried out by extremists on the far right, the most since the center began keeping statistics on domestic terrorism in 1994.

The report also noted a new high in the number of left-wing attacks, but said that attacks from the right were "still the much larger group." Over the last quarter-century, the study shows, right-wing attacks and plots were far more frequent than attacks from the left and caused many more deaths.

The center reported 25 left-wing attacks in 2020.

While in the White House, Trump ignored the threat of right-wing terrorism and spent his time demonizing the movement of left-wing opposition to white supremacy and fascism known as antifa.

Since taking office, President Joe Biden has released and expanded grants from the Department of Homeland Security to state and local law enforcement to investigate and prevent domestic terrorism, funds that had been held up or redirected by Trump's team.

The center released a report on Monday titled The Military, Police, and the Rise of Terrorism in the United States, stating, "The data indicate that U.S. military personnel have been involved in a growing number of domestic terrorist plots and attacks."

After the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump rioters, among whom were many active-duty and retired military service members, the report notes:

In response to these developments, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III pledged to intensify the DoD's effort to combat extremism in the military, remarking, "It concerns me to think that anyone wearing the uniform of a soldier, or a sailor, an airman, Marine, or Guardian or Coast Guardsman would espouse these [extremist] sorts of beliefs, let alone act on them. But they do. Some of them still do." Secretary Austin also signed a memo directing commanding officers and supervisors to conduct a one-day "stand-down" to discuss extremism in the ranks with their personnel. In addition, the DoD launched an investigation in January 2021 to determine the extent to which the department and military have implemented policies and procedures that prohibit advocacy and participation related to white supremacist, extremist, and criminal gang activity by active-duty personnel.

Republicans in Congress and conservative commentators have criticized the initiative, saying that those who support conservative politics will be swept up in the campaign.

The conservative movement, however, has tied itself to these extremist views.

The Washington Post analysis says:

Right-wing extremism began gathering fresh momentum after the election of Barack Obama, the nation's first Black president, according to an April 2009 Department of Homeland Security intelligence assessment. "Right-wing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda," the assessment said.

After Obama took office, it was none other than Trump who became the most prominent face of the "birther" movement, falsely alleging that Obama was not a natural-born American citizen. Embracing the debunked conspiracy theory did not disqualify Trump from seeking and eventually obtaining the Republican presidential nomination.

After taking office, Trump regularly used his platform to play to right-wing extremists, bashing migrants, demonizing Muslims, blaming Asians for the novel coronavirus, and embracing antisemitism.

These actions generated little criticism from his fellow Republicans.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, ignoring law enforcement warnings about the threat from extremist right-wing conspiracy theories, Trump praised QAnon conspiracy theorists.

As he debated Biden in September 2020, Trump told the white supremacist militia group Proud Boys to "stand by."

That same month, Biden was asked whether he condemned aggressive tactics by members of the antifa movement.

"Yes I do — violence no matter who it is," Biden replied.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.