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Tag: mike pence

Trump Ripped Former GOP Allies In Furious Interview

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

No matter how much a Republican has done for Donald Trump, the former president can easily turn against them if he feels they have let him down in some way — and that includes former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. They all were his targets for an interview featured in Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker's new book, I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year.

On March 31, Washington Post reporters Leonnig and Rucker interviewed Trump in person for their book at his Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida. I Alone Can Fix It is being released half a year into Joe Biden's presidency; it was six months ago, on January 20, that Trump vacated the White House and Biden was sworn into office. Highlights of that interview can be found in a book excerpt published by Vanity Fair.

During the interview, Trump promoted the false and debunked conspiracy theory that he won the 2020 election — which, in fact, he lost by more than 7 million votes. And Trump believes that Pence let him down by not preventing Congress from affirming Biden's Electoral College victory on January 6, the day a violent mob of Trump's supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol Building.

The ex-president told Leonnig and Rucker, "The greatest fraud ever perpetrated in this country was this last election. It was rigged, and it was stolen. It was both. It was a combination, and Bill Barr didn't do anything about it."

In December 2020, Trump was furious when Barr told the Associated Press that there was no evidence proving the type of widespread voter fraud that Trump was alleging. As much of a Trump loyalist as Barr had been, he acknowledged that Biden was the United States' legitimate president-elect.

Trump told Leonnig and Rucker, "Barr disliked me at the end, in my opinion, and that's why he made the statement about the election, because he did not know. And I like Bill Barr, just so you know. I think he started off as a great patriot, but I don't believe he finished that way."

Similarly, Trump believes that Pence let him down as well. Pence, in early January, stressed that as vice president, he didn't have the authority to reverse the Electoral College results. But as Trump saw it, he wasn't trying hard enough.

At Mar-a-Lago, Trump told Leonnig and Rucker, "Had Mike Pence had the courage to send it back to the legislatures, you would have had a different outcome, in my opinion. I think that the vice president of the United States must protect the Constitution of the United States. I don't believe he's just supposed to be a statue who gets these votes from the states and immediately hands them over. If you see fraud, then I believe you have an obligation to do one of a number of things."

On Capitol Hill, Democrats view Sen. Mitch McConnell as a fierce and unyielding partisan who fights them every step of the way. But Trump doesn't agree.

Thanks in part to McConnell, all three of Trump's Supreme Court nominees are now on the High Court: Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Justice Neil Gorsuch, and Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Yet Trump believes that McConnell didn't do enough for him. And ironically, Trump holds a grudge against the Senate minority leader for not wanting to abolish the filibuster. Democrats, during the Biden era, have been complaining that the filibuster is preventing them from getting important legislation passed in the Senate — from a voting rights bill to a commission to study the January 6 insurrection.

Trump said of McConnell, "He's a stupid person. I don't think he's smart enough. I tried to convince Mitch McConnell to get rid of the filibuster, to terminate it, so that we would get everything — and he was a knucklehead, and he didn't do it."

Other Republicans Trump ranted against during the March 31 interview ranged from former House Speaker Paul Ryan to Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The former president told Leonnig and Rucker, "Chris has been very disloyal, but that's OK. I helped Chris Christie a lot. He knows that more than anybody, but I helped him a lot. But he's been disloyal."

Are Republican Voters Rejecting ‘Anti-Christ’ Mike Pence?

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

It remains to be seen whether or not former President Donald Trump will seek the GOP nomination in the 2024 presidential election — and who Trump will endorse if he decides not to run. The non-Trump possibilities often mentioned by pundits range from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. But one person who isn't generating enthusiasm among many Republican voters, journalist David Siders stresses in an article published by Politico this week, is former Vice President Mike Pence.

Raymond Harre, vice chairman of the Scott County Republican Party in Iowa, told Politico, "I don't imagine (Pence would) have a whole lot of support. There are some Trump supporters who think he's the Antichrist."

In the past, Pence might have done well as a Republican presidential candidate. He is a severe Christian fundamentalist and an outspoken social conservative with an anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-feminist resumé. And in 2016, Trump thought enough of Pence to make him his running mate.

But in the minds of Trump devotees, Pence committed an unpardonable sin when, on January 6, he accepted the certification of now-President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over Trump.

In the days leading up to January 6, Pence said that as vice president, he didn't have the authority to overturn Biden's Electoral College victory. But Trump insisted that he could have pulled it off if he had tried harder, and the insurrectionists who were chanting, "Hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence" on January 6 believed that he betrayed their "Dear Leader."

Republican operative Doug Gross, who served as chief of staff to former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, is equally skeptical about Pence performing well as a 2024 presidential candidate. Gross told Politico, "It's just, where would you place him?.… With Trumpsters, he didn't perform when they really wanted him to perform; so, he's DQ'd there. Then you go to the evangelicals, they have plenty of other choices."

Steve Bannon, who served as White House chief strategist under Trump in 2017 and now hosts the War Room podcast, believes that the MAGA base will never support Pence as a presidential candidate.

Veteran GOP strategist Sean Walsh, who served in the White House under President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, told Politico that Pence has "got to justify to the Trumpistas why he isn't Judas Iscariot, and then, he's got to demonstrate to a bunch of other Republicans why he hung out with someone they perceive to be a nutjob…. I just think it is an awfully tough, tough hill for him to climb."

How Top Pence Aide Made Masking Political -- And Doomed Thousands

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

In 2020 Marc Short, the chief of staff to then-Vice President Mike Pence, made a fateful decision that paved the way for the politicization of wearing masks. Had he chosen differently there's no question countless lives could have been saved.

Short, who once served as the executive director of the far right Young America's Foundation, "focused on the political and economic implications of the coronavirus response and approached many public health decisions by considering how they would be perceived," The Washington Post reveals. That report comes from a deep-dive into the Trump pandemic response detailed in the new book, Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration's Response to the Pandemic That Changed History, by Post journalists Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta.

In possibly the most damaging of those decisions, Short nixed a plan, which was far along enough to have a PR campaign already created, to send face masks to every household in America. The Dept. of Health and Human Services was backing the program, while other reports have revealed the U.S. Postal Service was also working on it.

If it had been executed, "some public health experts think [it] would have depoliticized mask-wearing," The Post reports, but Short believed it "would unnecessarily alarm people."

Previous Post reporting revealed the program would have flooded the nation with 650 million face masks, five for every U.S. household.

Short has a long history of focusing on optics instead of fact-based communication to the public. As far back as the 1990's he labeled efforts to educate the public that HIV and AIDS do not only affect gay people a "propaganda campaign," a "distortion campaign," and "intentional deception."

And he called gay people "sodomites," while attacking "the perverted lifestyles homosexuals pursue," and delivered a warning to not "glorify homosexuals' repugnant practices."

Short tested positive for coronavirus in October.

Americans were already alarmed, but Short's and the White House's focus on optics and pretending the coronavirus was not as dangerous and deadly as it in fact is, according to Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, led to hundreds of thousands of deaths that could have been avoided.

VIDEO: Evangelicals Heckle Pence As ‘Traitor’ At Florida Conference

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The conservative Christian Faith & Freedom "Road to Majority" conference erupted early Friday afternoon as pro-Trump attendees heckled and booed likely 2024 presidential hopeful Mike Pence, calling the former vice president a "traitor" for refusing to overturn a free and fair election on January 6.

Pence tried to ignore the verbal assaults, speaking over protestors. Some were escorted out of the room, according to a Tampa Bay Times editor:

Watch as Pence gets heckled. Video via Forbes' Andrew Solender:

Capitol Rioter Now Says He Was ‘Victim’ Of Internet Disinformation

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Some of the January 6 rioters who are facing federal criminal charges are now saying, as part of their defense, that they were misled, brainwashed or unfairly manipulated by then-President Donald Trump, MAGA media and/or the QAnon cult. And one of the rioters who is using that type of defense is QAnon supporter Doug Jensen, who is saying that he was a "victim" of false information from the far-right conspiracy movement.

Jensen is presently incarcerated, and a motion filed by his attorney argues that he should be released from jail while awaiting trial because he was misled by QAnon. The motion stated, "Doug Jensen was not an intended part of any group or mob at any time that day. He simply went to observe 'The Storm.' He was at the front of the crowd, but in no way leading anyone. He was in front of everyone for the now disclosed silly reason to get Q recognized for 'The Storm' that was about to take place."

According to the QAnon conspiracy theory, the United States' federal government was invaded by an international cabal of child sex traffickers, pedophiles, Satanists and cannibals — and that Trump was elected in 2016 to fight the cabal. In 2020, QAnon claimed that "The Storm" would occur when its battle against the cabal escalated.

As ridiculous as QAnon's beliefs are, some QAnon supporters have been elected to Congress, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado.

In video taken during the invasion of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, Jensen can be seen in his QAnon shirt leading others in the mob as he chased after Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman:

Jensen is facing seven federal charges, including obstructing a law enforcement officer and violent unlawful entry.

In an article published by Law & Crime on June 7, reporter Jerry Lambe explains, "Following his arrest in January, FBI Special Agent Tyler Johnson noted that Jensen 'said he went to D.C. to receive big news from Donald Trump,' and claimed to still be a steadfast believer of QAnon. Those theories, in short, purport that the world is run by a cabal of Satanist pedophiles which Trump was ordained to take down."

Lambe continues, "Jensen allegedly told Special Agent Johnson that he believed Mike Pence and several members of Congress were secretly going to be arrested on January 6, and even asked if law enforcement officials could 'let me in on that if you know those arrests are real.' Jensen also admitted to having a knife on him when he was inside the Capitol, though he claimed it was just his work pocketknife which he had on him 'for protection.'"

The motion calling for Jensen's pretrial release describes his actions on January 6 as "misguided" but argues that he thought he was being patriotic.

"As misguided as he was," the motion stated, "he believed he was a patriot waiting to observe the events anticipated by 'The Storm.' To be certain, Jensen refused to obey Officer Goodman's order to stop and leave. And he did continue to follow him up the steps inside the Capitol. But Jensen neither threatened physical harm to anyone, nor did he destroy any property."

Jensen's attorney argued, "For reasons he does not even understand today, he became a 'true believer' and was convinced he doing a noble service by becoming a digital soldier for 'Q.' Maybe it was mid-life crisis, the pandemic — or perhaps the message just seemed to elevate him from his ordinary life to an exalted status with an honorable goal. In any event, he fell victim to this barrage of internet-sourced info and came to the Capitol, at the direction of the president of the United States, to demonstrate that he was a 'true patriot.'"

Pence Stuns Crowd With Remarks On Insurrection

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former Vice President Mike Pence broke his silence about the January 6 Capitol attack on Thursday, revealing that he and former President Donald Trump are still at odds over the event.

Pence stunned the audience with his remarks, according to one reporter present, appearing before a Republican Party event at the DoubleTree Hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire. He has been reluctant to speak out about January 6., a day on which he was pitted against the Constitution by his former running mate. Trump, having bought into and stoked debunked claims that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen by now-President Joe Biden, repeatedly pressured Pence to use the congressional counting of the Electoral College votes on January 6 to overturn the result. However, Pence, like every reputable constitutional scholar, concluded that his ministerial role in the proceedings gave him no authority to change the result.

Ahead of the event, Trump gave a speech to his supporters who he had called to assemble in Washington D.C. and urged them to march toward the U.S. Capitol where Congress was gathered. Groups of his followers stormed the building and shut down the proceedings in a violent assault that left dozens of polices officers injured and several people dead. Democrats, along with more than a dozen congressional Republicans, accused Trump of inciting the violent insurrection.

Trump and the crowd's ire had been particularly targeted at Pence. One crowd of the insurrectionists was even filmed cheering "Hang Mike Pence."

"January 6 was a dark day in the history of the United States' capital," Pence said on Thursday. "But thanks to the swift action of the U.S. Capitol Police and federal law enforcement, violence was quelled, the Capitol was secured, and that same day, we reconvened the Congress and did our duty under the Constitution and laws of the United States."

At this point in the speech, the crowd was noticeably silent.

"You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don't know if we'll ever see eye to eye on that day," he continued. "But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years."

The crowd broke into applause. But according to Business Insider reporter Jake Lahut, those remarks changed the tone of the evening.

"There was almost a palpable shock in the room when Pence mentioned January 6," Lahut reported on Twitter. "The vibe has gotten much quieter since Pence brought up Jan 6th."

Otherwise, Pence was full of praise for the former president, and he took shots at the Democrats. Even on the subject of Jan. 6, he accused Democrats of trying to use the day to "distract our attention" from the Biden administration. Though this critique rang hollow, given he both admitted to the seriousness of the violence that day and suggested that Trump was, at best, ambivalent about the attack.

Disarming North Korea May Flummox Biden, Too

Of the many mortifying moments of Donald Trump's presidency, few can match his hopeless infatuation with an unlikely partner: North Korean Communist dictator Kim Jong Un. It is still hard to believe that the leader of the free world could stand up in public and tell an audience: "We fell in love. No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters ... We fell in love."

President Joe Biden is meeting Friday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and Topic 1, as usual, will be that belligerent nuclear-armed regime in Pyongyang. Biden's approach to North Korea looks and sounds much different from Trump's. But his results are likely to be more or less identical.

Trump thought he was much shrewder than his predecessors in defusing this nuclear threat. "Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed," he tweeted in 2017. "I won't fail." First, he warned that if the North Koreans threatened the United States, "they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen." He tweeted, "I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his."

Then, as often happens in romantic tales, two people who start out disliking each other soon went head over heels. In 2018, Kim invited Trump to meet with him, and Trump surprised everyone by accepting. After the first meeting ever between a U.S. president and a North Korean head of state, Trump exulted. "There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea," which was a charming fantasy.

The two leaders met twice more, amid similarly extravagant claims. Trump's supposed goal was "the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula." But by the time he left office, it was obvious that he had naively granted North Korea more time to do what it had been doing all along: building up its nuclear and missile capacities.

Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, had carried out two nuclear tests and 16 missile tests. The son ramped up, conducting four nuclear tests and 91 ballistic missile tests. Experts say North Korea has as many as 60 nuclear weapons and produces enough fissile material to add another dozen each year. Nothing Trump did impeded its progress.

Biden has his own strategy. One official told The Washington Post the administration will pursue a "careful, modulated diplomatic approach, prepared to offer relief for particular steps" with an "ultimate goal of denuclearization." But agreeable adjectives won't dissuade the North Koreans from proceeding with something they believe is vital to their survival.

They believe this because it's true. In 2018, Vice President Mike Pence warned that North Korea "will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn't make a deal." The "Libyan model," you may recall, involved the U.S. and its allies using military force to topple the regime of Moammar Gadhafi, whose gruesome fate was to be captured and killed by rebels.

But Pence chose exactly the wrong analogy. Gadhafi was vulnerable because he had earlier agreed to give up his nuclear weapons program. Had he managed to assemble an atomic arsenal, the U.S. would not have tried to evict him from power. From Libya, Kim can deduce the potential downside of surrendering his nuclear weapons.

It may not be impossible for the U.S. to reach an agreement with North Korea to freeze or reduce the size of its arsenal in exchange for sanctions relief and full diplomatic relations. But even that limited task will be harder for Biden because of Trump's self-defeating policy toward another adversary — Iran.

President Barack Obama had joined with several other major nations in negotiating an agreement in which Iran agreed to give up 98% of its stockpile of uranium, dismantle thousands of centrifuges and accept stringent international inspections — all of which would prevent it from building nuclear weapons. In exchange, the U.S. and its partners consented to lift economic sanctions on Tehran.

But Trump stupidly withdrew from the accord, proving that the U.S. can't be trusted to honor its commitments. Why would Kim reduce or surrender his nuclear deterrent to get an agreement that might end up in a White House shredder? Why would he risk being naked to his enemies, as Gadhafi was?

The specter of a North Korea armed with nuclear weapons and long-range missiles has bedeviled one American president after another. Biden, the latest to confront it, won't be the last.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

The Real Steal Is Coming — In 2024

War is peace.

Freedom is slavery.

Ignorance is strength. — George Orwell, "1984"

Welcome to the funhouse world the Republican Party is building. Up is down. Black is white. Lies are truth.

The great cause that Republicans are uniting around is "election integrity." That's rich. The reality is that somebody did attempt to steal the 2020 election — Donald Trump. During the days and weeks following his loss, he brayed endlessly that the outcome was fraudulent, laying the groundwork for an attempt to overturn the voters' will.

From the White House, he made multiple calls to local election officials demanding that they find votes for him. He dialed up members of local canvassing boards, encouraging them to decertify results.

At a time when Trump's toadies were calling for legislatures to ignore the popular vote and submit alternate slates of electoral college votes, he engaged in flagrant election interference by inviting seven Michigan state legislators, including the leaders of the house and senate, to the White House on November 20. What did they discuss? You can surmise from their statement issued after the meeting: "We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and, as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan's electors..."

Trump phoned a Georgia elections investigator who was conducting a signature audit in Cobb County and asked her to find the "dishonesty." If she did, he promised, "you'll be praised. ... You have the most important job in the country right now."

The then-president phoned Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger 18 times. When he finally got through, he wove a tangled theory of voting irregularities that crescendoed to a naked plea to falsify Georgia's vote: "So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes."

Trump entertained ideas such as declaring martial law, seizing the nation's voting machines and letting the military "rerun" the election. He turned loose his Kraken-conspiracy nuts and his pillow man to spread lies about Dominion Voting Systems, Black-run cities like Philadelphia and Chinese bamboo ballots.

The Trump campaign and its allies filed more than 60 lawsuits challenging election procedures and lost all but one. Pennsylvania was found to have erred in extending the period to fix errors on mail-in ballots. The case was a matter of three days and a small number of votes that would not have changed Pennsylvania's outcome.

And then came the ultimate attack on election integrity — the violent attack on the Capitol and on members of Congress and the vice president as they were fulfilling their constitutional duties.

Leaving no doubt about his intentions for the riot, Trump told a crowd in February that the only thing that prevented the violent mob from successfully hijacking the official tally of the Electoral College votes was the "cowardice" of Mike Pence.

Today, we stand on the precipice of the House Republican conference ratifying this attempt to subvert American democracy. They are poised to punish Liz Cheney for saying this simple truth: "The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system." In her place, they will elevate Iago in heels, Elise Stefanik, whose claim to leadership consists entirely of her operatic Trump followership.

Let's be clear: The substitution of Stefanik for Cheney is a tocsin, signaling that the Republican Party will no longer be bound by law or custom. In 2020, many Republican officeholders, including the otherwise invertebrate Pence, held the line. They did not submit false slates of electors. They did not decertify votes. They did not "find" phantom fraud. But the party has been schooled since then. It has learned that the base — which is deluded by the likes of Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin — believes the lies and demands that Republicans fight. As my colleague Amanda Carpenter put it, the 2024 mantra is going to be "Steal It Back."

If Cheney must be axed because she will not lie, then what will happen if Republicans take control of Congress in 2022 and are called upon to certify the Electoral College in 2024? How many Raffenspergers will there be? How many will insist, as Pence did, that they must do what the Constitution demands? How many will preserve any semblance of the rule of law and the primacy of truth?

With this sabotage of Cheney, House Republicans are figuratively joining the January 6 mob.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is "Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense." To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.