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The study at the Bedminster Golf Club. Donald Trump is meeting with a visitor, his former international trade advisor and January 6th co-conspirator, Peter Navarro.
TRUMP: Jared’s memoir? No, not going to read it, Peter. Nope, not a snowball’s chance in Hell’s Kitchen.
PETER NAVARRO: That thyroid cancer thing, that came out of nowhere. I saw the guy every day. There's no sign that he was in any pain or danger or whatever. I think it’s just a ploy to get sympathy to try to sell his book. Fake news. Did you know, Mr. President?
NAVARRO: Did Ivanka talk to you about it?
TRUMP: I don’t recall. You know, Peter, that’s a better answer than the Fifth Amendment. You should consider it. Maybe you can’t recall whether Jared had cancer—and a few other things. The Green Bay Sweep, with the electors, I don’t recall. Doesn’t that feel better? Where did you get that Green Bay business? Why not the Tampa Bay touchdown? I told Jared that Tom Brady was after Ivanka.
NAVARRO: It’s in the book.
TRUMP: I said to Jared, “Why does she have to convert? Why don’t you convert?” Tom Brady, conversion is an extra point. Most people think I'm Jewish anyway. Most of my friends are Jewish. I have all these awards from the synagogues. They love me in Israel. I’ve got to hand it to Jared. Cancer works for him. You’re right, Peter, makes him more sympathetic, a victim, too. I beat Covid. Maybe I should say I beat cancer.
NAVARRO: Mr. President, did you have cancer?
TRUMP: Maybe. We’ll see if I need to have beaten it. The lawyers are negotiating with DOJ. Doctor Ronnie said I’m in the top ten percent of everyone my age. The golf, the rallies, the steak—top ten. Now take Rudy, in and out of the hospital. And the second wife—or is she the third? Remember the annulment? Not many people do. A cousin, second cousin, first wife, hard to keep track. But the second wife, really the third, wants a new chunk of change, another pound of flesh. Would Ivana have done that to me? Not in a million years. Best first wife.
NAVARRO: A remarkable woman.
TRUMP: If you have time, Peter, do down just past the first tee. Just the name and the years. Very, very tasteful. Classy.
(A youthful aide enters.)
AIDE: Mr. President, that caller you were expecting...
TRUMP: (To Navarro) Dinner later, the steak. Second term, the pardons. And, remember, I don’t recall. (Leads Navarro out and points toward the golf course) Just past the first tee.
(Navarro exits. Trump picks up the phone to speak with Alex Jones.)
TRUMP: Hell of a performance at the trial, Alex. Are they going to put you in the witness protection program to protect you from your lawyer? If they can’t find you, you don’t have to pay.
ALEX JONES: Mr. President, the lawyer screwed up royally. Said the text messages and emails weren’t privileged. I am the one who should collect punitive damages.
TRUMP: Are you on the phone I told you to call on—the burner phone? And don’t give it to your lawyer when you’re done.
JONES: I’ve been accused of a lot of things, but not that stupid.
TRUMP: Well, I’ve been reading the coverage.
JONES: They got all my messages with Roger Stone!
TRUMP: Roger is someone you should have been studying. Roger always uses the burner when he calls me. Hanging with the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers—stand by and stand back—burners. I’d use the phone of a Secret Service agent. Fail safe. I wonder where all those text messages went. They all disappeared except for yours, Alex.
JONES: Mr. President, we’re surrounded by traitors.
TRUMP: You watch those hearings? You see what I had to deal with. Team Normal, that’s what they call themselves now. They used to be the adults in the room. When I was giving political donations to Hillary and Chuck Schumer, and I was pro-abortion big-time, where was Team Normal? Abu Ghraib. And, now, they’re a bunch of crybabies.
JONES: Congratulations on beating Team Normal in the primaries! You belted them. What a lineup! Murderer’s Row.
TRUMP: J.D. Vance, Dr. Oz, Blake Masters, Kari Lake, Doug Mastriano, that Laxalt—how did they win? They all said the election was stolen. It’s not Team Normal’s party—and they can cry if they want to.
JONES: But it was stolen! Not a hoax!
TRUMP: Alex, you always tell it like it is.
JONES: Mitch McConnell is not too happy with your candidates beating his.
TRUMP: The Old Crow is going to eat more than crow. He says he doesn’t know if he’ll win the Senate. And they call him the smart one. He can’t see what’s happening in front of him. He doesn’t get it. None of the pundits get it. Team Normal, dumb as rocks.
JONES: So, what’s the strategy?
TRUMP: My candidates win the primaries—I win, McConnell loses. My candidates lose their elections—McConnell loses, I win. His dream is over. He’s finished. Beaten forever. Never majority leader again. Done and done. I win again. Who do they blame? Not me. They blame Mitch. They blame Team Normal. They’ll need me more than ever. Republicans lose the Senate and I’m the savior.
TRUMP: Don’t forget to ditch the phone. Nobody will find it if you bury it at a golf course.
Sidney Blumenthal, former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, has published three books of a projected five-volume political life of Abraham Lincoln: A Self-Made Man, Wrestling With His Angel ,and All the Powers of Earth. His play This Town, about a scandalous White House dog, was produced in 1995 by LA TheatreWorks. This is the fifteenth in "The Trump Cycle," his series of one-act plays published in The National Memo, including The Pardon, Epstein's Ghost, Ivanka's Choice, Sunset Boulevard, The Exclusive, The Role Model, A Modest Proposal, The Exit Interview, The Hitler Gospel, Father Knows Best, The Gold Medal Winner, All I Want For Christmas Is Melania’s Non-Fungible Token, Puppet Theater, and Master Class.
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Albert Woodfox passed away on August 4, 2022. In what’s believed to be the record for the longest stint in solitary in American history, Woodfox spent approximately 43 years alone in a 6-by-9-foot cell in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, colloquially called Angola, the name of the plantation that once occupied the same land.
The circumstances of his incarceration are as mind-boggling as the length of time Woodfox languished in loneliness. Along with an inmate named Herman Wallace, Woodfox was falsely accused — and wrongly convicted twice — of killing a corrections officer. Woodfox, Wallace, and another inmate were known for their indefinite placement in segregation and were dubbed the “Angola 3.”
It’s not as if administrators, lawyers and even judges didn’t know that the Angola 3’s duration in isolation was beyond objectively unreasonable. In 2005, federal United States Magistrate Judge Docia Dalby wrote that the Angola 3’s confinement went “so far beyond the pale” that there seemed not to be “anything even remotely comparable in the annals of American jurisprudence.”
Yet Woodfox remained in isolation for over ten more years after that judicial proclamation. Only when he was finally released in 2016 when he pleaded guilty to lesser charges did he get out of the box.
Despite the fact that the United Nations declared that solitary is torture, no prison will completely eliminate the practice of confining people for weeks and even months, sometimes years, in a parking space sized cell. This “affront to our common humanity”— as former President Barack Obama called it — persists. And it will, since even reforms to the system often don’t stick.
In what was heralded as a bipartisan win and demonstration of humanity, the Criminal Justice Reform Act became law in Massachusetts in 2018. It was designed to, among other changes, make the time spent in isolation more humane and bearable, as well as cap periods of time spent in isolation at six months. But the hoopla might have been premature. Inmates filed a class action lawsuit on July 23, 2022 alleging that the Department of Correction isn’t obeying that law and are leaving them in solitary confinement for as long as 10 years.
It’s not just Massachusetts that’s seeing reform’s empty promises; the solitary confinement refit in New York City isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The Board of Correction, the oversight body for New York City Department of Correction, had put forth new rules that former Mayor Bill DeBlasio claimed would “end” solitary confinement in the city.
But overhauling the “restricted housing” at Rikers Island came to a “screeching halt” according to reporting in the publication The City when Mayor Eric Adams signed Executive Order 148 in July, pausing implementation because the department lacks sufficient staff.
Even if the rules went into effect, they’re not that drastic of a change. Solitary confinement goes by different names so reforming it can be as easy as changing a label. Indeed, that’s what the Board of Correction will be doing should Mayor Adams ever give them the green light. The new rules will christen the system as the Risk Assessment and Management System or RAMS instead of ‘Punitive Segregation’ or ‘PSEG.’
Typical conditions for solitary confinement are 23+ hours of isolation with only a few minutes of time in an outside area - alone. The new rules boast 10 hours of out-of-cell time - longer than an average work shift. The problem is that this freedom happens in a literal cage placed outside of the cell. The out-of-cell time allows people to see and hear each other - through indoor chain link fencing.
The now-indefinitely paused new rules for New York City don’t limit the amount of time a person can be held in these conditions, a stark contrast to the state statute, the HALT Solitary (Humane Alternatives to Long Term Solitary Confinement) Act, which limits segregation stays to 15 days no more than 20 days every 60 days, in accordance with what the United Nations calls The Nelson Mandela rules. United States District Court judge Mae A. D’Agostino recently tossed a lawsuit filed by New York State Correctional Officers And Police Benevolent Association, Inc. — the guards’ union — that sought to invalidate the law, so this statute might have some staying power.
But even if the HALT Solitary Act endures as a public law, legislation is a long way from implementation as the claims of the Massachusetts inmates demonstrate. James Pingeon, litigation director for the Prisoner Legal Services of Massachusetts, told Michigan law professor Margo Schlanger in a recent interview that Massachusetts’ Criminal Justice Reform Act came about because advocates had used litigation to garner political support.
The same is true for New York’s trajectory of limiting use of isolation; it started in response to litigation. In 2016, the state of New York settled a class action case — it consolidated a number of pro se prisoner suits into one case — and agreed to remove young, pregnant, and disabled prisoners from extreme segregation and set first-ever maximum limits on the time people can spend in extreme isolation. The Peoples v. Fischer settlement paved the way for the 2021 passage of the HALT Solitary Act. The law is brand new. In four years, the State of New York may be facing litigation similar to what Massachusetts confronts right now, amid allegations that the changes aren’t panning out.
Addressing honest complaints about continued reliance on solitary confinement need not take so long. New Jersey’s reform wasn’t in place for even a year when the law appeared to be violated. The Isolated Confinement Restriction Law went into effect in 2020, with segregation limited to 20 day terms — five more than the 15 day limit established in the Mandela rules — or no more than 30 days in a 60 day period. However, a review of disciplinary records found that women at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility were sent to “Restorative Housing” — another clever name change — for anywhere between 60 days and a year.
It’s not that reform of solitary hasn’t made any strides. The American Civil Liberties Union called 2019 a watershed year for change, with twelve states enacting some measure of reform. A new law in Connecticut limits the use of confinement to no more than 15 days at a time and no more than 30 days within a 60-day timeframe. Ridding correctional spaces of torturous practices will require patience because it’s an incremental process.
But that’s the problem. Incrementally phasing out human rights abuses seems insufficient. When faced with atrocities, we ban them. Implementation may take time but the moral position is clear immediately.
Not only is this slow reform ethically dubious, it’s not even effective. Passing a law about solitary confinement seems almost meaningless at this point, leading to changes that are largely cosmetic if they happen at all.
It’s one of the most perplexing realities of modern corrections: Despite substantial consensus — five of six voters support restricting use of this type of isolation — and broad acknowledgment that solitary confinement is abusive and harmful to people with disabilities and mental illness, reducing its use is almost impossible, even with statutes in place that demand change.
Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent, and she later established a blog under the same name that earned several professional awards. Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.