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Reprinted with permission from AlterNet. 

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an adviser for Donald Trump’s transition team, has drafted a plan for the incoming administration to impose sweeping Islamophobic policies, including the revival and expansion of a Bush-era Muslim registry, as well as forced interrogations and ideological screenings of immigrants “regarding support for Sharia law.”

He is also calling for a redefinition of the term “criminal alien” to include “any alien arrested for any crime, and any gang member,” a dramatic expansion that could ensnare countless numbers of people before they face trial or conviction.

The plan was revealed when Associated Press photographer Carolyn Kaster captured an image of Kobach entering a private meeting with Trump on Sunday, carrying a binder and papers. Held in Bedminster, New Jersey, the meeting was aimed at discussing “border security, international terrorism and reforming federal bureaucracy,” according to the Trump transition team. Some text on one of those pages, although partially obscured by Kobach’s hand, is legible when the image is enlarged.

The document appears to lay out Kobach’s plan for his first year, if he is tapped to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

The top bullet point, titled “Bar the Entry of Potential Terrorists,” calls for DHS to “Update and reintroduce the NSEERS screening and tracking system (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System) that was in place from 2002-2005. All aliens from high-risk areas are tracked.”

As a staffer in George W. Bush’s justice department, Kobach pushed for the 2002 creation of NSEERS, a registry for men over the age of 16 who hail from countries deemed to pose a terrorist danger to the United States. Of the 25 countries included on the list, 24 had majority-Muslim populations.

By the time DHS announced in 2011 that it was indefinitely suspending the program, it had ensnared nearly 100,000 people and led to thousands of deportations. According to Chris Rickerd of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, NSEERS “mandated ethnic profiling on a scale not seen in the United States since Japanese-American internment during World War II and the ‘Operation Wetback’ deportations to Mexico of 1954.”

President Obama has continued the practice of registering Muslims through the expansion of the federal government’s terrorist watch listing system, which disproportionately targets Muslims.

Unlike Bush and Obama, who have falsely maintained that they were not creating Muslim registries, the Trump campaign has been far more overt. Reuters reporters Mica Rosenberg and Julia Edwards wrote Tuesday that Kobach, who helped author Arizona’s draconian SB 1070 anti-immigrant law, “said in an interview that Trump’s policy advisers had also discussed drafting a proposal for his consideration to reinstate a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries.”

Carl Higbie, a prominent Trump supporter and spokesperson for the Great America PAC, recently told Megyn Kelly on Fox News that the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is a “precedent” for a potential Muslim registry.

Kobach’s written plan also calls for DHS to “Add extreme vetting questions for high-risk aliens: question them regarding support for Sharia law, jihad, equality of men and women, the United States Constitution.” The text is disturbingly similar to Trump’s campaign trail calls for an ideological screening of Muslim immigrant and visitors.

“Conspiracy-minded Islamophobia”

Arun Kundnani, author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror, explained to AlterNet that, “For more than a decade, Muslim immigrants in the U.S. have been subject to extra scrutiny and suspicion by federal agencies. The new plan will further ramp up that profiling. Interrogating ‘aliens’ about their views on sharia, jihad, the equality of men and women, and the U.S. constitution will do nothing to prevent terrorism. For President-elect Trump to seek to exclude Muslim ‘aliens’ for not respecting gender equality or the constitution would be ironic to say the least. This is not an anti-terrorism policy but an anti-Islam policy that has its origins in the conspiratorial thinking of the far right.”

Michael German, a former special agent with the FBI who is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, agreed. “This document reflects the conspiracy-minded Islamophobia that shouldn’t be part of any government proposal,” he said.

The document appears to recommend that the Trump administration deport a “Record Number of Criminal Aliens in the First Year.” Going further, Kobach calls for the term ‘Criminal Aliens’ to be redefined “as any alien arrested for any crime, and any gang member.” In other words, one could be determined a criminal alien before facing trial or conviction.

German emphasized that the reference to the “gang database” is particularly troubling, explaining, “What we know about the gang database is that it is full of people who are placed there arbitrarily.”

The plan also recommends that the U.S. bring the “intake of Syrian refugees to zero” and calls for a “rapid build” of Trump’s proposed wall along the southern border with Mexico.

Trump’s appointees indicate that he plans to give white nationalists and anti-immigrant hardliners a direct line to the White House. So far, he has nominated white nationalist Steve Bannon as chief strategist, and Jeff Sessions, who was found to be too racist to serve as a federal judge under the Reagan administration, as attorney general. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has proclaimed he is “open” to torture, is Trump’s appointee for the role of national security adviser.

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

IMAGE: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks in his Topeka, Kansas, U.S., office May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Dave Kaup/File Photo


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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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