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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.

House Republicans Shamed Over Ivanka’s ‘Private’ Emails

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) called out House Republicans on Thursday for attempting to stop the Oversight Committee from issuing a subpoena for the emails of Ivanka Trump and others who conducted official business using personal accounts.

“I think it’s really important for my colleagues to understand that we’re talking about transparency and talking about oversight,” said Tlaib. “These are messages that impact the American people.”

“Right now all I hear is this fear from the other side of information that may come about Ivanka, and we gotta protect Ivanka,” she continued.

“That’s all I hear is that you’re choosing to protect family members of this current administration that have access to information — they are at the table making decisions on behalf of the American people. They don’t have any privacy anymore. They also have to be accountable to us in this chamber.”

On Thursday, the committee voted 23-16 to authorize Chairman Elijah Cummings to subpoena emails and texts between White House officials sent using personal accounts. Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of emails on White House business using her personal account throughout 2017. Her husband, Jared Kushner, did the same. Both are currently employed as senior aides to Trump.

The White House has not responded to previous, bipartisan requests for information, so Cummings said the subpoena “has become necessary.”

“The Committee has obtained direct evidence that multiple high-level White House officials have been violating the Presidential Records Act by using personal email accounts, text messaging services, and even encrypted applications for official business—and not preserving those records in compliance with federal law,” Cummings said in a statement.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the highest-ranking Republican, objected to the vote on the subpoena.

“This subpoena is for personal emails — who their domestic help is, who’s watching their — that’s ridiculous,” said Jordan, mischaracterizing the subpoena. The request only seeks preservation of emails relating to official White House business.

Tlaib responded, saying, “It stopped becoming personal when they got access into the room. It stopped becoming personal when they got security clearances. It stopped becoming personal when they’re in the room making decisions that impact the American people.”

Jordan’s position is an about-face from the one he held years ago.

In 2015, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was testifying before Congress about the Benghazi attack, Jordan asked her to provide his access to her private email server.

“If the FBI finds some of these e-mails that might be deleted, as they’re reviewing your server, will you agree to allow a neutral third party — like a retired federal judge — to review any e-mails deleted to determine if any of them are relevant to our investigation?” he asked.

Now, when it is Ivanka Trump’s emails that are in question, Jordan now believes in keeping them out of the public view, even though she works for the taxpayers.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

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.

 

Who Hates America?

Nobody expects Donald Trump to speak the truth about himself or his opponents anymore. To support him requires a suspension of disbelief that is impressive in a misbegotten way.

So when the president of the United States tells four duly elected members of Congress to go back to where they came from, an old trope of bigotry that everybody understands, the politicians who support him pretend that he was saying something else. Even his rank-and-file backers know how to play dumb — like the gentleman who told NPR that Trump was merely telling Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley to “go back to their home states.” Sorry, but nobody is really that stupid, although Trump and his minions treat us all as if we are.

Behind Trump’s rhetorical tactics lies what psychologists call projection: Each accusation he lodges against adversaries is emblematic of his own character. Defaming the four women of color, he said, “They hate our country. They hate it, I think, with a passion.” He said they express “a love for enemies like Al Qaeda.” And he was merely inviting them to leave the United States “if they want to leave,” which they must because “they’re doing nothing but criticizing us all the time.”

As usual, he was lying. His absurd claim about Al Qaida was a reference to Omar, who is Muslim and, therefore, slandered in this way regularly. She has never praised any terror group and instead has denounced terrorism many times. Indeed, she has publicly criticized the Saudi funding of Al Qaida, which is more than Trump has ever done.

No, it’s Trump who constantly sucks up to this country’s enemies. He grovels to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose intelligence services are devoted to assaulting us and our allies, most notoriously through our electoral systems. He truckles to the Saudi monarchy, which has encouraged jihad for decades and most recently financed the Islamic State. He is “in love” with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean tyrant who murdered an innocent American and openly threatens us with nuclear weapons.

As for the four congresswomen’s supposed hatred of America and desire to leave, three of them were born here and know no other home. The fourth came here as a child refugee and built a new life of civic activism in her new home. They’ve sworn an oath to defend the U.S. and the Constitution. They’ve spoken movingly, as Ocasio-Cortez did, of the inspiration they find in American symbols such as the Lincoln Memorial. And like every patriot, they’ve sought to create a more perfect union — which cannot be done without criticism that sometimes sounds unsparing.

So far, none of those women has uttered a sentence that paints America as darkly as the portraits wrought repeatedly by one Donald Trump: in his furious tweets during the Obama years, in his grim campaign book, Crippled America, in his frothing GOP convention acceptance speech, and in his bizarre “American carnage” inaugural address on Jan. 20, 2017. Over and over again, Trump told us that we live in a crime-ridden dystopia, an economic ruin, a declining power that had earned the world’s derision.

Did Trump “hate America” when he said those terrible things? He would bristle at the very notion. He would say that he was just attacking Barack Obama, not America — which he has proved he loves with his creepy hugging of the flag. And of course, he had every right to knock Obama, to complain about the former president’s domestic and foreign policies, even to lie about his citizenship. Bear in mind, however, that Trump would deny the same right to others now if he could. That is why he talks about expanding libel laws and whines that “fake news” shouldn’t be considered free speech.

What Trump wants Americans to believe is that criticizing him and his crimes is the moral equivalent of hating America. This is the personal ideology of every would-be tyrant, always amplified by vilifying citizens of a different race, religion or immigration status. We have seen it in history, and we are seeing it now.

Who hates America? Look at the man who turns Americans against one another every day to distract us from his outrages against law, decency, and the Constitution. Then ask yourself that question.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: Donald Trump delivering his presidential inauguration address on January 20, 2017.