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


Embarrassing Trump Tweet Contradicts New Press Secretary Grisham

Just six weeks into her job as White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham publicly humiliated herself in front of the world while attempting to cover for Trump.

On Thursday morning, as reports began to circulate that Trump was pushing for Israel to stop Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) from visiting the country, Grisham was asked to comment.

At around 9 a.m., she said the stories were “inaccurate.”

“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit,” Trump then wrote at 9:57 a.m.

In under an hour, Trump successfully pulled the rug out from under his top spokesperson.

Grisham’s time in the job has been marked by her decision to continue the tradition of her predecessor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in avoiding questions from the press. She began her job on July 1 but has not held one on-camera briefing.

It has been 157 days since the last White House press briefing, which was given on March 11.

Grisham’s only on-camera media appearance as press secretary was a recent interview with longtime Trump fan Eric Bolling that was aired on pro-Trump network Sinclair.

The negative experiences her predecessors had trying to clean up Trump’s commentary do not bode well for Grisham in the future. Right from the start in 2017, then-press secretary Sean Spicer became the butt of jokes from coast-to-coast after he went out at Trump’s behest to berate the press for accurately describing Trump’s inauguration as poorly attended.

Later that year, Trump purged then-FBI director James Comey for insufficient loyalty to him during the special counsel investigation of his campaign. Sanders, who was press secretary at the time, instead told the press in a briefing that Comey was removed because of a recommendation from the Justice Department. When that turned out to be a lie, she was quizzed on the deception in a briefing by reporters. Her own false statements about the affair were read to her, and she had to fumble for a response.

In 2018, Trump responded “no” to a question from a reporter asking if Russia is still working to attack the United States. Later that day in the press briefing, Sanders was asked about the denial, which contradicted warnings from intelligence agencies. She claimed that Trump didn’t say no to the original question but had in fact been answering a completely different query. Reporters did not accept her spin and pushed for an honest response.

“Why should this president have any credibility, to Americans, in what he says if in fact 24 hours later — or in this case, 3 hours later — the White House comes out and says ‘just kidding’?” asked NBC’s Hallie Jackson, summarizing the logical contortions that had been made.

In April, after Trump was mocked by the French government for offering “advice” during the Notre Dame fire that would have destroyed the landmark, Sanders had to release a cleaned-up press statement expressing solidarity with the French people.

Grisham’s humiliation is now part of Trump’s tradition with his press secretaries. If they attempt to spin the day’s events to serve his needs, eventually he will end up humiliating them.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

More New Citizens? It’s No Credit To Trump

By some baffling process, the Trump administration has acquired a reputation for not welcoming foreigners to our shores. This terrible misimpression grieves Ken Cuccinelli. He has offered a kinder, gentler approach intended to reassure every American who takes a positive view of legal immigration.

In a Fox News interview, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spoke of the “very moving experience” of the naturalization ceremonies he has attended, seeing people who come from all over the world take an oath of allegiance to this country. He said the administration has actually increased the number of people becoming citizens.

“Last year, we were in the range of 850,000, and that was the most in five years,” he said. “People who come after the president and this administration say, ‘Oh, you know, you don’t like immigrants.’ Well, we are letting more people become citizens than has happened in years.”

It’s a surprising image: Huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, flocking into the warm embrace of Donald Trump, who swells with pride at their eagerness to do the right things to become full members of our society. Regrettably, I must advise you it bears no resemblance to the truth.

In the first place, Trump does not spare contempt for legal immigrants who become citizens. He said Rep. Ilhan Omar, born in Somalia, brought here as a child and naturalized as a teen, should “go back” to her native land. Maybe you’ve heard about it.

Cuccinelli is also an ill-suited messenger. He has called for repealing birthright citizenship and called Rep. Steve King, an unabashed white nationalist, “one of my very favorite Congressmen.” Cuccinelli also said that the president’s call for four Democratic women House members to leave the country was not racist. So what he exudes is not credibility.

His account was also faulty, as PolitiFact noted. The 850,000 figure is the number of applications that were completed in 2018; the number approved was about 756,800. Cuccinelli was off by nearly 100,000. Between 2016 and 2018, the number of petitions approved barely budged.

The number of people filing citizenship applications did rise in 2017, but not because Trump made them feel they belong. Just the opposite. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), who was a legal services attorney at the time of the 2016 election, has said: “We started encouraging people to obtain citizenship if they were eligible, due to the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from the administration. And I think the administration helped deliver that message pretty forcefully.”

If you’re worried about being punished because you’re a foreigner, the logical move is to become a U.S. citizen, with all the protections that go with that status. It was fear of Trump’s policies that drove the jump in applications.

But applying is not the same as getting. Cuccinelli neglected to mention all the ways his agency has impeded people from becoming U.S. citizens.

An immigrant needs to have a green card — that is, be a legal permanent resident — for at least five years to be allowed to naturalize. Cato Institute analyst Alex Nowrasteh told me the administration “has been trying to cut down on the number of green cards issued each year” — which would cut the number of possible naturalizations in the future. Under Trump, the denial rate on these applications has risen by more than a quarter.

His colleague David Bier notes that USCIS has increased “the load of paperwork for immigration applications by double, triple or more.” The American Immigration Lawyers Association found that the typical time it takes to process an application for citizenship rose by 46 percent in the past two years.

The National Partnership for New Americans says that despite a drop in applications in 2018, the backlog of petitions rose to 738,148. That’s bigger than the population of Washington, D.C.

In many cities, the wait time can exceed 20 months — which means that “certain people who apply for citizenship today may be prevented from being naturalized and subsequently being able to register to vote in time to participate in the 2020 elections,” says NPNA.

That effect could be completely unintentional on the part of the administration, just as Cuccinelli could win the Heisman Trophy. Neither is easy to imagine.

The president has made his feelings about foreigners clear, and his administration has translated those prejudices into policy. When more foreigners become Americans, it’s not because of Trump. It’s in spite of him.

What That Scary Undercurrent At Every Trump Rally Really Means

Reprinted with permission from Alternet/ Daily Kos.

Many observers, with good cause, have decried Donald Trump’s vicious attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar and her fellow progressive congresswomen of color and the frightening chants—“Send her home!”—his fanatical followers in North Carolina started up all on their own, responding to Trump’s vituperation about Omar, as nakedly racist, not to mention dangerous. Many have remarked on the fascism dripping from every word, and suggested that what we saw Wednesday in Greenville was a new Nuremberg, Trump’s feeble denials notwithstanding.

If anyone needed further evidence that Trump is now America’s eliminationist-in-chief, the frenzied crowd delivered it in spades.

But listen carefully to the language being used by Trump and his defenders to rationalize their words. It is language with a very familiar ring: The language of community defense and purification, driving from the body politic any foreign—and therefore innately toxic—presence or influence. The language of heroic willingness to sever the Gordian knot and do “what needs to be done” to protect the community, or in this case the nation, or indeed Western civilization itself.

It is the language of hate crimes, used by their perpetrators to rationalize their deeds.

Even before the chant, it was fascinating to watch Trump’s defenders in the wake of the nakedly eliminationist “go back where they came from” tweets that inspired the chant. There was Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), justifying the tweets to the hosts on Fox & Friends by suggesting that people like these members of Congress deserve to be ejected from the country: “We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists … they’re anti-Semitic. They’re anti-America.”

And then there was Sen. Steve Daines, Republican of Montana, who tweeted on Monday along similar lines: “Montanans are sick and tired of listening to anti-American, anti-Semite, radical Democrats trash our country and our ideals.” (Special hypocrisy note: Daines employed a noted white nationalist named Taylor Rose as a campaign field organizer in Montana in his 2014 Senate campaign.)

Listen to the words Trump used in Greenville to attack Rep. Omar just before the chant broke out:

I mean think of that one, and she looks down with contempt on the hardworking American, saying that ignorance is pervasive in many parts of this country. And obviously and importantly, Omar has a history of launching vicious antisemitic screeds.

After the chant, he continued with similar language in attacking Omar’s colleague, Rep. Rita Tlaib:

And Tlaib also used the F word to describe the presidency and your president. That’s not nice, even for me. She was describing the President of the United States and the presidency with the big fat vicious, the way she said it, vicious F-word. That’s not somebody that loves our country.

This is how violence against both nonwhites and political dissenters has been justified by the mainstream American Right for centuries: If you disagree, you hate the country, and thus deserve ejection or elimination. This is why “go back where you came from” is a favorite phrase both of hate-crimes perpetrators and violent right-wing thugs like the Proud Boys.

Yet this was presented as a rational explanation by Trump’s defenders: “The president clarified in there what he was talking about: a love of the country. And if you don’t love the country, leave the country,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told the press.

New York Post columnist Sohrab Ahmari hated the chants but then embraced the underlying sentiments:

Needless to say, the “send-her-back” chants are gross. But again, with remarks like these, and many other of the kind, she has signaled radical hostility to her adopted homeland and the West — i.e., a total departure from the political community.

Beneath the pseudo-logical veneer, there is a frightening undercurrent running through all of this talk.

The problem is much deeper than the naked discrimination and intolerance on display: This is language that will be used to justify violence. It will almost certainly inspire a fresh wave of racial sectarian violence in the form of hate crimes and right-wing extremist domestic terrorism, because it is the very same language that is used by the perpetrators of these crimes to justify their acts.

The criminologists and social scientists who study hate crimes have parsed the motivations behind such acts into four different but related kinds: thrill-seeking, “defensive,” retributive (or revenge crimes), and “mission” crimes (perpetrated by committed ideologues intent on striking a blow on behalf of their cause).

By far the largest of these categories is the “defensive” kind of motive, in which perpetrators see themselves as heroes who are out to save their communities and the nation as well. One study found that this category of motive had become dominant in hate crimes after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001—and that hate crimes were likely to spike when “when a particular group is regarded as representing a danger to the dominant group’s prestige, wealth, or power.”

“Dylann Roof [who murdered nine parishioners at a black church in Charleston, S.C, in June 2015] thought he was saving the world,” said Heidi Beirich, Intelligence Project director at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “They’ve come to believe they’re saviors of the white race. … I’m doing this to protect my race.”

In “defensive” hate crimes, perpetrators see themselves as heroic protectors of their communities: their neighborhoods, their workplace, their religion, their country, their race. These “defenders’ often target specific victims, justifying their crimes as necessary to fend off perceived threats. Particular events such as the arrival or a Muslim or a black family in a previously all-white neighborhood can act as the spark for such crimes.

Both while in the act and afterward, especially when caught and charged with bias crimes, these perpetrators defend themselves by using the language of community defense. They show little to no remorse for their crimes, and usually insist that they are acting on the unspoken wishes of the majority of people in the community, which is too afraid to act. Even non-defender types of perpetrators—particularly “mission” and retributive criminals—employ this kind of rhetoric to explain their actions.

“They honestly believe that what they’re doing has some sort of communal assent,” says Brian Levin, who leads the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

This is where the role played by Donald Trump becomes crucial: Rather than acting as a lever to discourage such acts, Trump clearly has encouraged them with both his rhetoric and his actions. This has led to what has been called the “Trump Effect,” in which outbreaks of bigoted crimes and incidents are directly linked to the president’s outbursts in speeches and on Twitter.

This effect was first marked in the month immediately following Trump’s election in November 2016. Levin’s team as CSUSB assembled hate-crimes data from 38 jurisdictions and found the effect was unmistakable: “racial hate crime according to FBI data surged during November 2016, and in particular on the day after the election, rising from 10 to 27. Our analysis of the same FBI data set further revealed November was the worst month—with 735 hate crimes—since 2007 and the worst November going back to 1992, when systemic national record keeping began. Further, we found that hate crimes more than doubled, from 17 to 42, the day after the election and that a 72 percent average daily spike occurred in the two weeks following the election compared to before.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded a similar phenomenon:

To the contrary, in the first 34 days after the election, the SPLC documented 1,094 bias-related incidents and found that 37 percent of them directly referenced Trump, his campaign slogans or his notorious comments about sexual assault. Not every incident met the definition of a hate crime, but many did. The FBI later confirmed the sharp uptick in reported hate crimes in the fourth quarter of 2016. Researchers have shown that reported hate crimes following Trump’s election made up the second largest surge since the FBI began collecting data in 1992 (trailing only the increase after the 9/11 terror attacks).

Another study found that not only is there a demonstrable “Trump Effect” arising from his rhetoric, the effect is substantially broadened and deepened by the fact of his winning the 2016 election:

Using time series analysis, we show that Donald Trump’s election in November of 2016 was associated with a statistically significant surge in reported hate crimes across the United States, even when controlling for alternative explanations. Further, by using panel regression techniques, we show that counties that voted for President Trump by the widest margins in the presidential election also experienced the largest increases in reported hate crimes. … We hypothesize that it was not just Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric throughout the political campaign that caused hate crimes to increase. Rather, we argue that it was Trump’s subsequent election as President of the United States that validated this rhetoric in the eyes of perpetrators and fueled the hate crime surge.

More pointedly, there has been a sharp spike in hate crimes (226 percent) in counties where Trump has held his political rallies, which feature his frequently eliminationist and threatening speeches. As its authors note, “Recent research also shows that reading or hearing Trump’s statements of bias against particular groups makes people more likely to write offensive things about the groups he targets.”

All this bodes ill for the coming 2020 presidential campaign. If Trump continues to wage his culture war against nonwhites and the liberals who defend them, the Trump Effect is certain to surge along with it—and so will the hate crimes and acts of domestic terrorism that ride in its wake.


Trump Defends ‘Incredible Patriots’ Who Chanted ’Send Her Back’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Seeming to backtrack on his disavowal of the racist and fascist ‘Send her back!” chants about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) that broke out this week at his campaign rally, President Donald Trump told reporters on Friday that the crowd was filled of “incredible patriots.”

He has said Thursday that he was “not happy” about the chant that broke out the previous day, even though he has clearly prompted the sentiment by saying Omar, a refugee, and American citizen, should “go back” to her home country. He also targeted the attack at other progressive congresswomen of color who were born in the United States.

But on Friday, when asked about his “unhappiness” with the chant, Trump revved up his attacks against Omar and backed the crowd.

“No, you know what I’m unhappy with — the fact that a congresswoman can hate our country,” Trump said, despite the fact that Omar said this week that she has “extreme love for every single person in this country.”

He continued: “I’m unhappy with the fact that a congresswoman can say anti-Semitic things. I’m unhappy with the fact that a congresswoman, in this case a different congresswoman, can call our country and our people ‘garbage.’ That’s what I’m unhappy with.”

Defending the crowd (and grossly exaggerating its size), he said: “That stadium was packed, it was a record crowd. And I could have filled it 10 times, as you know.  Those are incredible people. Those are incredible patriots. But I’m unhappy when a congresswoman goes and says, ‘I’m going to be the president’s nightmare.’ She’s going to be the president’s nightmare. She’s lucky to be where she is. Let me tell you. And the things that she has said are a disgrace to our country. Thank you very much.”