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

Uncovering The #MAGA Plot Against America

Investigations of the terrible crimes committed against the United States at the Capitol last week had scarcely begun when the usual suspects launched a right-wing cover-up. Rather than blame the motley swarm of #MAGA fanatics, white nationalists and habitual criminals whom we all witnessed storming into the citadel of democracy to stop certification of the 2020 election, they pointed the finger to the antifa and Black Lives Matter movements.

But such a preposterous political alibi, premised on nonexistent evidence, won't stand up to the kind of scrutiny that must now be brought to bear on these momentous events. Long after President Donald Trump's impeachment is over and done, and regardless of whether he is convicted or not, the myriad investigations and trials of the perpetrators of the Capitol insurrection will go on for years. Justice will be done; the truth will be revealed; and the breadth of the assault on our constitutional democracy will stun even the jaded and cynical.

Combining vanity and stupidity, the shock troops who carried out the assault recorded themselves in the process of the attack. Perhaps they believed that they would be pardoned by Donald Trump. Knock, knock. Now the FBI is sweeping them up across the country to face federal prosecution.

More than a few of these individuals have prior convictions for serious crimes. These predicate felons, who exemplify the extremist wing of Trump's movement, are likely to crack under prosecutorial pressure and disclose what they know. And no matter what they expected, Trump probably won't dare to pardon them. He is reported to be upset at the low class of his diehards apparently willing to kidnap and assassinate in his name.

While much of what occurred on Jan. 6 and the days and weeks leading up to the attack still remains somewhat murky, it is already clear that the insurrection was not a spontaneous uprising. The mob that assaulted the Capitol included highly trained fighters who came prepared with tactical gear of all kinds, often superior to the equipment of the police officers trying to hold them back, as well as a communications system. What they needed from the thousands of dupes whipped up by Trump and Rudy Giuliani was an overwhelming physical force to enable an unstoppable rush into the building.

We don't know the extent of coordination, if any, between the White House, various ultra-right members of Congress and fascist gangs like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers that came to Washington bent on bloodshed. The initial clues, however, raise deeply troubling questions. Why were members of Congress escorting groups of Trump supporters around the Capitol on Jan. 5, the day before the attack, when the building was supposed to be closed? Why did the attacking vanguard leave the Trump rally at the White House early and proceed to the Capitol? And why did the Pentagon fail to send National Guard reinforcements in time, despite desperate pleas from the Capitol Police?

The support structure for the demonstration that turned into an insurrection ranged across the Trumpist movement, encompassing figures like Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, and Charlie Kirk, who runs the far-right college outfit Turning Point USA and boasts close ties with Donald Trump Jr. Both of them have tried to erase evidence of their organizing efforts.

Equally intriguing is the role of Ali Alexander, who takes credit for staging the "Stop the Steal" rally on Jan. 6, whose militant rhetoric set the event's tone and who now seems to have gone into hiding. He has a long history of connections with Trump confidant Roger Stone and Stone's proteges in the Proud Boys. He has also received funding in the recent past from the billionaire Mercer family, which lurks behind many of the nation's most toxic far-right elements. And Alexander says that he worked on the insurrection with at least three Republican members of Congress — Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and Mo Brooks, R-Ala.

Here it is worth recalling that Stone oversaw the "Brooks Brothers riot" in Miami that stopped the vote counting in Miami-Dade County and swayed the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. Since last November, he has repeatedly called for Trump to impose martial law to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The events of Jan. 6 represented the worst threat to democracy and the rule of law that we have seen in our lifetimes. The violent authoritarian impulse within the Republican right has metastasized under Trump into a potent and very dangerous force. Uncovering the roots of that threat and isolating its sponsors will be a lengthy and complicated process that will involve the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, state and local law enforcement, the attorney general of the District of Columbia, many committees of the House and Senate, and almost certainly a national investigative commission on the order of the 9/11 commission. And there will be trials.

Nothing less will suffice to defend our democratic republic from its enemies, foreign and domestic.

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.

They've Showed Us Who They Are

The assault on the Capitol inspired by President Donald Trump was a tragic event — disturbing to watch on television and leaving many difficult questions in its aftermath. Yet that terrible moment illuminated the national landscape like a flash of lightning.

It is now clear even to those who have pretended otherwise that Trump himself represents a grave danger to national security. He should have been removed last year during impeachment. He should be impeached again so he is ousted immediately and any possibility that he can seek office again curtailed. But nothing that can be done to Trump will disarm his armed and angry followers, who have warned loudly that they will be back.

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Why America Must Hold Mike Flynn Accountable

When Donald Trump finally vacates the White House on Jan. 20, his departure won't exorcise the political demons that have infested the nation over the past four years. The cult of personality that surrounds Trump has combined with his own profound disdain for constitutional norms, fulfilling the worst fears about his rise to power. He will surrender the presidency only after seeking to overturn a legitimate election, while encouraging demands among his followers for "martial law" and a turn toward dictatorship.

Trump is plainly a fascist, surrounded by bootlicking flunkies of like disposition, and he will continue to encourage a fascistic faction in and around the Republican Party.

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Trump And Attorneys Reportedly Discussed Imposing 'Martial Law' To Undo Election

As the end of his regime nears, Donald Trump is conjuring an authoritarian nightmare that would have been deemed preposterous until now. On Friday, according to the New York Times, the president held a tumultuous Oval Office discussion with advisers where he raised the possibility of imposing martial law.

Among those present to mull this seditious conspiracy with Trump were his lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani; the attorney and conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell, who had represented the Trump campaign in election disputes; and Michael Flynn, the retired general, disgraced former national security adviser and convicted felon who has publicly urged Trump to impose military rule. Also in the room were White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who were reported to have objected to the crazed pleas by Flynn and Powell. The Times reported that the meeting concluded without any resolution.

At the same meeting, Trump is also said to have considered appointing Powell as a "special counsel" to investigate election "fraud" -- presumably including the broad array of ludicrous and unsupported allegations she has failed to advance in various courts around the nation. As is so often the case, Trump aims to pervert the legal system by abusing an authority that does not belong to him. Only the attorney general has the legal power to appoint a special counsel, whose very purpose is to limit undue presidential influence over the justice system. The notion of naming a crackpot like Powell to any position reportedly even alarmed Giuliani, despite his own recent spate of deranged claims about the election.

Indeed, Politico reports that Friday's Oval Office meeting devolved into a screaming match between the excitable lawyers Giuliani and Powell, who accused each other of insufficient loyalty to Trump. Both Flynn and Powell have repeatedly implored Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, to impound voting machines in various swing states, and even to rerun the election in those states under military supervision.

Such fascistic daydreams are not about to materialize, so everyone should remain calm. As senior Army officials told Politico over the weekend, the military will play "no role" in resolving any electoral disputes – which ended on Dec. 14 anyway with the Electoral College ratifying Joe Biden's victory.

But should Flynn impetuously attempt to carry out any unlawful action against the peaceful transition of power, perhaps military officers who have sworn to uphold the Constitution will be present to place him under arrest. Considering how persistently he has dishonored the uniform, many of them undoubtedly would relish that opportunity.

Republicans Talk ’Secession," But Who Would That Hurt?

The loudest sound on the American far right today is the angry whining emitted by sore losers who claim their candidate was defrauded but know for a fact that he was simply defeated. Their tune is grating, but their seditious words are troubling, with supporters of President Donald Trump repeatedly warning of "civil war" and even "secession." Fans of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh hear those ominous words every day now.

Presumably, such divisive sentiment is why many "conservatives" are so enamored of Confederate flags and other such symbols of treason. If the democratic process doesn't give them what they want, they threaten bloodshed and the destruction of the nation to which they once pretended to pledge allegiance.

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Fascism Unmasked -- With A Trump Trademark

Nearly a year before he accepted the Republican nomination for president, Donald Trump's authoritarian impulses already were too obvious to be ignored. By then he was encouraging physical attacks on undocumented immigrants, demanding the deportation of millions more, and constantly appealing to hatred and bigotry. He bragged of being the "most militaristic" candidate and denigrated the free press. So extreme was his rhetoric during those months that prominent conservatives -- including several who now spinelessly truckle to him – warned of what his rise to power might portend.

His campaign reeked of an ideology that today can be named without hesitation. Trump has cultivated a constituency for fascism in America -- and his most fanatical followers may soon pose a real threat to the republic.

Having lost a fair election by millions of votes and an Electoral College margin that Trump himself has defined as a "landslide," he has mounted a campaign to discredit democracy with false allegations of fraud. Defeated repeatedly in courts and counting rooms run by Republicans, he has refused to desist from these debunked claims. Even as his followers threaten GOP election officials with mayhem, Trump has continued to stoke their rage. And now we are entering the darkest dimension of politics, as his henchmen predict "civil war" and demand that he impose "martial law."

Leading the calls for bloodshed in the weeks following Trump's defeat was his 2016 campaign chief Steve Bannon, who urged Americans to be prepared to fight and die to overturn the election. On his "War Room" podcast, Bannon hosted a Trump campaign lawyer from Georgia named Lin Wood whose plea to the president's supporters was that they must "do what our Founding Fathers did in 1776."

Across right-wing media those shrill, seditious messages were echoed and then amplified into an explicit demand for the overthrow of constitutional democracy and the inauguration of a Trump dictatorship. At the forefront were still more familiar faces, including a pair of criminals -- disgraced ex-general Michael Flynn and longtime Trump consigliere Roger Stone.

Both Flynn and Stone were recently granted corrupt pardons by Trump for hiding details of the Trump campaign's collusion with Russian agents in 2016. Both have always displayed borderline personalities that complement their authoritarian ideologies. Now those latent tendencies have erupted into furious fascist agitprop.

On Twitter, Flynn stolidly invokes the usual insincere appeals to "freedom," the flag, and God. Meanwhile, the more imaginative Stone weaves scenarios of North Korean and European plotting to steal the election, in tandem with the Venezuelans, George Soros, and perhaps some lizards from deep space (or the deep state).

The nascent campaign for dictatorship has emerged via an Ohio organization called "We The People Convention," which is evidently operated by a local Tea Party leader. Along with Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, the kooky lawyer dismissed from the Trump campaign, Flynn and his cohort are imploring the president to declare "limited martial law." Their scheme is to suspend civil liberties and normal legal processes, in order to conduct a new election under military control (which they expect would produce an outcome more to their liking).



For the moment, this political excrescence is a fringe phenomenon, like the upsurge of neo-Nazism that Trump's presidency has inspired. Cowardly as he is, Trump will disappoint these maniacs. He knows, even if they don't, that our country's military leaders might well respond to any such lawless order by arresting him. He has already said he will depart the White House on January 20, so we won't have the pleasure of watching him hustled out by the Secret Service.

The seditious babble of figures like Stone, Flynn, and Powell is protected by the First Amendment of the same Constitution that they have treated as toilet paper from the moment that Trump entered the White House. But they represent an armed constituency that rejects reason, despises law, and is attracted to violent solutions. And they aren't going away when Trump leaves office.

Gratitude And Grace, Even Now

In the throes of a global pandemic that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and will kill many more, it may be difficult to summon gratitude this Thanksgiving. Our sorrow and frustration are only intensified by a government that seems indifferent to the suffering and exacerbates suspicion and ill will at every opportunity.

And yet, on this day, even as the grim daily toll continues, we have many reasons — indeed, millions — to feel thankful. Personally, I am forever obliged to the friends and family who have helped me and mine stay safe this year.

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The Trump Republicans And The Fuhrerprinzip

Everyone who voted in the 2020 presidential election should understand what the hierarchy of the Republican Party is doing right now. It is seeking to thwart the decision of the American electorate, expressed in a substantial majority vote for Joe Biden, with full consciousness of their own dishonesty. The Republicans are following directives from President Donald Trump that they know are based in falsehood, violate constitutional order and threaten to destroy democracy. They are elevating the warped impulses of one man above any moral or political value they once swore to uphold.

What the Republicans are so cravenly enacting is known in German as the Fuhrerprinzip. Enunciated by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf — one of very few books Trump has ever been accused of reading — it means "leadership principle"; it demands that every public official kneel in cowering debasement before the boss and abandon any pretense of intellectual independence. It is the method by which the "Big Lie" — in this case, the claim of massive nationwide election fraud — gains acceptance even though everyone is aware of its factual emptiness.

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Forcing Trump’s Election Lawyers To Tell The Truth

There is no penalty for lying on television, as anyone who watches cable news already knows. It is considered normal today when Fox News personalities — to name one prominent group of habitual liars — repeat absurd falsehoods, even if the result is that people contract the coronavirus and die.

There is no penalty for lying on the radio, as everyone has known for decades. It is a highly lucrative daily routine for talk jocks such as Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage — among the most successful of their ilk — who are often exposed but never feel embarrassed.

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Who Will Defend Military Ballots From Trump?

At this moment, the president of the United States is threatening to "throw out" the votes of millions of Americans to hijack an election that he seems more than likely to lose. Donald Trump is openly demanding that state authorities invalidate lawful absentee ballots, no different from the primary ballot he mailed to his new home state of Florida, for the sole purpose of cheating. And his undemocratic scheme appears to enjoy at least nominal support from the Supreme Court, which may be called upon to adjudicate the matter.

But what is even worse than Trump's coup plot — and the apparent assent of unprincipled jurists such as Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — is the Democratic Party's feeble response to this historic outrage. It is the kind of issue that Republicans, with their well-earned reputation for political hardball, would know how to exploit fully and furiously.

They know because they won the same game in Florida 20 years ago.

During that ultimate legal showdown between George W. Bush and Al Gore, when every single vote mattered, a Democratic lawyer argued in a memorandum to the Gore team that the validity of absentee ballots arriving after Election Day should be challenged. He had the law on his side in that particular instance — but not the politics.

As soon as the Republicans got hold of that memo, they realized that it was explosive. Why? Many of the late ballots the Democrats aimed to invalidate in Florida had been sent by military voters, and the idea of discarding the votes of service personnel was repellent to all Americans. Former Secretary of State James Baker, who was overseeing the Florida recount for Bush, swiftly denounced the Democratic plot against the soldiers, saying: "Here we have ... these brave young men and women serving us overseas. And the postmark on their ballot is one day late. And you're going to deny him the right to vote?"

Never mind the grammar; Baker's message was powerful — and was followed by equally indignant messages in the following days from a parade of prominent Bush backers including retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the immensely popular commander of U.S. troops in the Desert Storm invasion that drove Saddam Hussein's army out of Kuwait. Fortuitously, Schwarzkopf happened to be on the scene as a resident of Florida.

As Jeffrey Toobin recounted in Too Close to Call, his superb book on the Florida 2000 fiasco, the Democrats had no choice but to retreat. "I would give the benefit of the doubt to ballots coming in from military personnel," conceded then-Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Gore's running mate, during a defensive appearance on Meet the Press. But Toobin says Gore soon realized that to reject military ballots would render him unable to serve as commander in chief — and that it would be morally wrong.

Fast-forward to 2020, when many of the same figures on the Republican side are now poised to argue that absentee ballots, which will include many thousands of military votes — should not be counted after Election Day, even if they arrived on time. Among those Republicans is Justice Kavanaugh, who made the opposite argument as a young lawyer working for Bush in Florida 20 years ago. Nobody expects legal consistency or democratic morality from a hack like him, but someone should force him and his Republican colleagues to own this moment of shame.

Who can do that? Joe Biden's campaign and the Democratic Party ought to be exposing the Republican assault on military ballots — and, by the same token, every legally valid absentee ballot — every day. But the Democrats notoriously lack the killer instinct of their partisan rivals, even at a moment of existential crisis like this one.

No, this is clearly a job for the ex-Republicans of the Lincoln Project, who certainly recall what happened in Florida in 2000. They have the attitude and aptitude of political assassins. They surely know how to raise hell over an issue like military votes — and now is the time to exercise those aggressive skills in defense of democracy.

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.

#EndorseThis: Remembering The Legendary Reporter Who First Exposed Donald Trump


Wayne Barrett was a legendary investigative journalist, whose early reporting on Donald Trump's "moral larceny" blazed the way for every news outlet that has ever given serious coverage to the 45th president and his misdeeds. Sadly, my old colleague Wayne didn't live to report on Trump's presidency, passing away on the night before his inauguration in January 2017. But now Bold Type Books has issued a new anthology of Wayne's work -- including his pathbreaking stories on Trump and Rudy Giuliani -- with new essays by many of his colleagues (and a preface contributed by me).

Without Compromise: The Brave Journalism That First Exposed Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and the American Epidemic of Corruption is "indispensable," said New Yorker investigative ace Jane Mayer, who added that Wayne's stories "are essential reading, alive with fresh insights and information illuminating today's politics, and remind us that rigorous journalism is still democracy's best defense."

Recently I discussed Without Compromise and Wayne with Lisa Birnbach, renowned author and journalist, for her superb podcast 5 Things That Make Life Better. If you're interested in how investigative reporters work and why they do their often thankless jobs -- along with other pertinent and impertinent topics -- follow the links to this episode of Lisa's podcast. It's on every podcast platform (and I recommend subscribing).

Apple Podcasts: http://bit.ly/LB120ApplePodcasts

Spotify: http://bit.ly/LB120Spotify

Google Podcasts: http://bit.ly/LB120GooGlePodcasts

Stitcher: http://bit.ly/LB120Stitcher

iHeart Podcasts: http://bitly.ws/ank3

YouTube: http://bit.ly/LB120YouTube


As Those Biden Smears Collapse, Look Harder At Trump

If you were a Trump supporter anticipating a ruinous assault on Joe Biden's integrity during that final debate, too bad. What you got instead was a series of incomprehensible outbursts from Donald Trump, who seems to assume that everybody believes whatever nonsense they hear on Fox News, just like he does.

The day after the debate was even more disappointing. The Wall Street Journal, owned by Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch himself, dropped a front-page investigative report that directly contradicted Trump's accusations about Biden and China. The only candidate with unseemly business over there is Trump himself, whose secret account in a Chinese bank was just exposed.

For months, Trump and his minions have hyped allegations of financial corruption against Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Trump got himself impeached, with the help of legal genius Rudy Giuliani, over his attempt to force Ukraine's president to open a fake corruption probe of the former vice president and Burisma, the energy firm that once employed Biden's son Hunter. Their deception collapsed when Trump and Obama administration officials testified – with ample documentary evidence – that Biden had done nothing to protect Burisma and only carried out United States and European initiatives against corruption in Ukraine.

But that failure didn't discourage Giuliani, former Trump campaign chief Steve Bannon, or the other fabricators in the Trump entourage. In recent days, they have unveiled a mysterious laptop computer that purportedly belonged to Hunter Biden and reached Giuliani and then the New York Post through a series of implausible events. There are clues that the electronic data on the laptop was invented or altered. Who might do that? Let's see: The Kremlin is seeking to harm Biden politically, and Giuliani has openly welcomed the assistance of Russian intelligence assets, so the answer is fairly obvious. Especially because Russian agents provided similar services for the Republican candidate four years ago.

When the laptop gambit flopped, the Trumpsters still didn't give up.

On the eve of the debate, a Wall Street Journal columnist published a claim that Joe Biden personally profited from investments in China fronted by Hunter. Her column was based on assertions by a shadowy but euphoniously named businessman, a certain Tony Bobulinski. In a move worthy of that old pardoned felon Roger Stone, Bobulinski actually attended the Nashville debate (after staging a "press availability" where he refused to answer any questions.)

Unfortunately for both Bobulinski and that eager Journal columnist, her newspaper on Friday published the investigation that cratered their nefarious tale. After months of actual reporting, the Journal's real journalists found that the venture cited by Bobulinski "never received proposed funds from the Chinese company or completed any deals." Moreover, corporate records reviewed by the Journal's reporters "show no role for Joe Biden."

So far the Biden "scandal" most closely resembles Whitewater and the entire panoply of Clinton finance scandals that never revealed any wrongdoing whatsoever. Whatever Trump may spew and sputter, there is no plausible evidence that has been subjected to examination by journalists of integrity.

And fortunately for Biden, the nation's traditional news outlets are approaching the allegations against him with a cool and appropriate skepticism. That wasn't the case in 2016, the last time Steve Bannon played the same games. For Bannon and Giuliani, as well as their echoes across right-wing media, the objective was always to launch their false narratives into the mainstream. They succeeded brilliantly in 2016, with the assistance of the New York Times and other news organizations that should have known better and done better. This time they are failing.

In promoting these serial smears, the risk for Donald Trump is always that someone competent will inspect his record. That's what should have happened four years ago, when he and Bannon falsely attacked the Clinton Foundation while concealing the sordid truth about the Trump Foundation, a brazen criminal enterprise.

That 2016 frameup was a classic instance of projection – and we can assume the same dynamic is at work today. So now is the time to scrutinize all of the Trump Organization's crooked, conflicted deals overseas – and how he and his family have profited from his presidency.

Rudy's Latest Variation On The Same Dirty Trick That Got Trump Impeached

What a stroke of luck for Donald Trump, just when the president's election prospects look irretrievably bleak: A trove of incriminating emails has turned up that supposedly connect Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden to a dubious businessman in Ukraine. Uncovered by the president's own intrepid lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his former adviser Steve Bannon, the newly discovered emails suggest that Biden is as corrupt as they've been saying for months.

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Excerpt: Wayne Barrett's 'Without Compromise: The Brave Journalism That First Exposed Donald Trump'

What follows is my preface to Without Compromise: The Brave Journalism That First Exposed Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and the American Epidemic of Corruption, published on Sept. 29 by Bold Type Books. Among the many revelations in this new anthology of the work of Wayne Barrett -- my longtime friend and reporting partner at The Village Voice -- is the fundamental nature of Trump's character that Wayne discovered more than 40 years ago. But the work of this legendary investigative reporter goes far beyond the story of one very bad man who became president. MSNBC's Chris Hayes described it as an "instantly classic collection by one of the greatest reporters New York ever produced, and one of the greatest of his era."

By the end of his life, on the day before President Donald Trump's 2017 inauguration, Wayne Barrett was already a legendary figure in American journalism. His tenacious investigative reporting on New York City politics and corruption had made him the scourge of City Hall, the bane of several mayors, and an essential member of New York's pugnacious press corps. He had published a hard-hitting biography of Rudy Giuliani as well as an eye-opening book on that mayor's failures and omissions leading up to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Barrett had been covering Donald Trump since the real-estate scion turned reality-TV personality first began lining up public subsidies for private gain in the 1970s. He had published a scathing biography of the man in 1990, during one of Trump's periodic financial collapses.

The rise of his old nemesis to the American presidency lent historical drama and even a touch of glamor to a life spent in relentless toil. The unscrupulous businessman and the conscientious journalist who chronicled his corruption had lived on opposite sides of a profound moral chasm. In the years following his death Wayne would continue to haunt Trump, his byline invoked by a legion of reporters as they pursued the 45th president down trails he had blazed.

Wayne's lifelong project was to muster journalistic truth on behalf of the downtrodden and against their oppressors. Pursuing that goal, he developed a method that produced some of the most rigorous, purposeful, and dogged investigative reporting ever written. It is a method worth revisiting now, when essential facts often fail to penetrate public consciousness -- even amid a deadly pandemic -- and cable pundits seem to outnumber working reporters.

He didn't deign to hide his point of view. His writing was propulsive, emphatic, even damning, and always candid. As a champion scholastic debater he knew that rhetoric can inspire, but he also learned that facts matter more. His approach to reporting was exhaustive, requiring the assistance of literally hundreds of former interns -- who eventually went on to distinguished careers after months of checking off Wayne's impossibly long lists of interviews, document searches, archive visits, data crunches, and stakeouts. He never stopped believing in the evidence-based inquiry that spurred America's founders and undergirds every functioning democracy.

Wayne first achieved notoriety for his scathing investigative profiles of celebrated figures in politics and business. Among the earliest Barrett targets was Donald Trump who contrived his initial venture into Manhattan real estate with enormous state subsidies via connections with the shadiest elements in Brooklyn and Queens clubhouse politics. Indeed, Wayne scorched nearly every important politician of either party who crossed his path, from Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani to Mario and Andrew Cuomo.

While he enjoyed dueling with politicians, however, Wayne brought equal passion to probing the faceless forces that immiserated the city's most defenseless communities. He had a deft touch with the personal interview and, despite his ferocious reputation, could charm almost any source into talking too much. But he was just as keen to spend hours poring over public budgets, city records, and all the eye-glazing data points that reveal how brutally society treats the most vulnerable – as in his classic series documenting Koch's "war on the poor," or his pioneering dissection of the original "poverty pimp," Bronx political operative Ramon Velez.

He was born on July 11, 1945, and raised in Lynchburg, Va., where he attended Catholic schools with his two brothers and two sisters. His father was a nuclear physicist and his mother became a librarian. He became editor of his high school's newspaper and led its debate team to second place in a national championship, a performance that earned a full scholarship to Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. (Some might observe that Wayne was very much the product of a Jesuit education.) There he met a Philly girl named Frances Marie McGettigan, whom he married in 1969. By then, he had graduated from Columbia Journalism School (where he later taught for more than 30 years) and moved on to teach school in Brooklyn's impoverished Brownsville community.



Like many bright young people who grew up in the 1960s, Wayne underwent a radical transformation even before he arrived in Brownsville. Going off to college as a Goldwater conservative who despised student leftists, he emerged as a long-haired Vietnam war protester and supporter of black liberation movements -- although unlike his hippie peers, he never smoked a joint and, for that matter, scarcely ever drank alcohol. If his teaching job began as a means to escape the draft, it quickly turned into a lifelong commitment to that very poor, highly segregated, and heavily African-American neighborhood.

It was in Brownsville that Wayne came to understand investigative reporting as his instrument to confront inequity, injustice, and corruption. With a group of local activists, he founded a small newspaper called The People' Voice, aiming its mimeographed fusillades at the predatory landlords, failing schools, uncaring bureaucracies – and crooked politicians.

Within a few years, Wayne's exposes of local corruption drew the attention of Jack Newfield, the Village Voice's premier political columnist and investigative chief. Jack brought Wayne into the Voice, where he published hundreds of articles over the next four decades -- frequently in partnership with other reporters (including me). We both joined the paper as staff writers in 1978, just after Ed Koch was sworn in for his first term as mayor.

Our mission at the counter-cultural Manhattan weekly was not so different from what Wayne and his fellow activists had tried to do in Brownsville, except on a much broader stage, with substantial resources, top editors, and thousands of paying readers. We exposed the real power relationships in a city where real estate kingpins like Trump routinely greased elected officials – and exercised an unwholesome influence over policy and budget decisions.

Although the Voice's circulation was smaller than the city's major dailies, the passionate engagement of savvy readers endowed us with clout. The dailies paid us the compliment of routinely lifting our stories, with or without credit. And in that era, before the Internet and social media, newspaper stories mattered – even in an "alternative" weekly.

From a warren of cramped, rather nondescript offices and cubicles below Fourteenth Street in Manhattan, we scoped the political landscape of city and state, holding elected officials accountable for their deviations from political integrity and public interest. Working at a "writer's paper," as the Voice was known, meant that we set our own course, pursuing stories that reflected the electoral calendar, the urgent issues of the moment, and the enduring priorities of our politics.

Every year, for instance, we shamed the city's worst landlords with a list that named names and catalogued atrocities. We spent months as a team in 1980 to produce an exhaustive three-part series on Republican corruption and mob influence in Nassau County – our bouquet to its favorite son, U.S. Senate candidate Alfonse D'Amato. (He won that election, but Wayne finally took him out with a devastating story on his absentee voting record almost two decades later.)

We pursued this vocation with a certain ferocity, nobody more so than Wayne. As he explained on the occasion of the Voice's 50th anniversary in 2005, "we thought a deadline meant we had to kill somebody." He was only half joking. Every public figure in New York had good reason to fear and respect him.

Wayne expected the same fierce determination from everyone who worked with him, whether colleagues or interns. Scratching out scores of tasks on a yellow legal pad, he could get quite testy if someone failed to match his formidable work ethic. A caring friend with a wonderful sense of humor, he was also known to torment his editors and didn't always tolerate disagreement well, to put it politely. When we were producing a two-page news spread every week, he would occasionally stop speaking to me – and for a couple of days I could only communicate with him via messages left with Fran.

Of course he could be lighthearted and funny, too; he loved to banter and gossip, and over the years he attracted a wide circle of friends that was even larger than his impressive list of enemies. But he was tough because he took the work seriously, and he kept working until his last day. He never stopped believing that investigative reporting could reveal wrongdoing, provoke outrage, spur reform, and change people's lives for the better. And after four years of a lying president who has done so much to damage people's lives – and the vulnerable most of all – that faith seems more essential than ever.

With his innate consciousness of mission, Wayne defied the cynicism that too often infects modern journalism. Even as he grew into a highly sophisticated analyst of elections, media, finance, and government, he nurtured an idealism about democracy and the role of the press that could sound almost naïve. The tragedy is that we lost him just when we were about to need him most.

As a devout believer in the Church's social justice doctrine, he naturally had lived in a state of perpetual indignation. The prayer card at his funeral, held in a Brownsville church where he remained a parishioner, displayed a cartoon of Wayne preparing to pepper the Almighty with tough questions. Even in the afterlife, he would surely hold the most powerful to account.

What follows in this book is a collection of that indefatigable sleuth's most compelling and salient adventures. What stands out in every single one is his drive for justice, which he charged us all to carry on.

This article has been excerpted from Without Compromise: The Brave Journalism that First Exposed Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and the American Epidemic of Corruption by Wayne Barrett, edited by Eileen Markey. Copyright © 2020. Available from Bold Type Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

The White House Under A Black Sky

After months of unscientific experimentation, the president of the United States has completed his transformation into a biological weapon.

Infected with the coronavirus because he rejected the advice of government experts, Donald Trump can no longer evade the consequences of the policy and political choices he has made since last winter. With every wrong move, he brought himself and the country closer to this fateful moment. How many lives his terrible exercise in deception and self-deception will cost remains to be seen, but we now know that he does not hesitate to endanger even those closest to him.

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