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Have Female Reporters Got Trump on the Run?

Once again, a tough question ends with the president shutting down a briefing.

It starts with a reporter, usually a female reporter, asking President Donald Trump hard, tenacious questions at a news conference. Trump’s jaw seizes up, rattled and dumbfounded by the questions that he can’t or won’t answer, he abruptly ends the presser by saying, “Thank you, very much” and stalking out of the room.

Trump threw such a fit on Saturday when CBS News reporter Paula Reid launched a volley of questions about why he once again took credit for passing a veterans program that the Obama administration pushed through in 2014. In late July, the same fight-or-flight response turned to flight again when CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins chased Trump with pointed, persistent questions about his retweets of a fringe doctor’s theories that masks were useless and hydroxychloroquine cured Covid-19. “OK, thank you very much everybody,” Trump said as he backed off, truncating the news conference. In May, it was CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang and Collins again whose questions prompted Trump to crumble and skedaddle. And in April, when Playboy White House correspondent Brian Karem barraged the president with Covid-19 questions, a flustered Trump threatened a walk-off. “If you keep talking, I’m going to leave and you can have it out with them”—meaning the other reporters—Trump said.

Trump toughed it out that time, winding down the briefing down without yanking the ejection lever. But his increasingly skittish manner with the press marks a turning point in his presidency, a new moment where his usually reliable mouth almighty seems incapable of articulating a put-down or a blow-off response. Our two-fisted brawler of a president, always ready to smash the interlocutors from the press with a virtual folding chair, has replaced moxie with pouts. In the old days, he would have had a ready answer for the much-expected question from Reid, Collins and Jiang. But now he’s like the former alpha leader of the troop. He makes a show of maintaining his dominance by beating his breast, but when challenged by somebody superior, he takes his beating then slinks off to a dark, safe place to lick his wounds.

What’s causing Trump to back down from the press after so many months of fighting them? There could be a method to his madness. As my colleagues Nancy Cook and Gabby Orr reported this summer, his aides have urged him to avoid the marathon sessions of his earlier coronavirus briefings, “straying off message and generating negative headlines.” He’s playing it safe by keeping it short. Another way to view his dust-ups with female reporters is as an act of conflict avoidance. With his support among suburban women dropping in the polls, the Trump camp thinks that dodging unnecessary clashes with women in the briefing room might help win additional votes in November. Essentially, don’t make a bad situation worse.

But that’s only a partial explanation. Trump’s problems with female reporters have become a defining quality of his presidency. NBC News’ Katy Tur says Trump turned her into a “target“ during the campaign, and he feuded with Megyn Kelly while she was at Fox. In late March, when PBS NewsHour reporter Yamiche Alcindor pursued Trump with legitimate questions about Covid-19, he cut her off, ridiculed her, and said, “Don’t be threatening. Be nice.” Two weeks earlier, Trump had accused Alcindor of asking a “nasty“ question when her query about shrinking the White House national security staff was entirely above board.

Of course, Trump has given male reporters similar thumpings. CNN’s Jim Acosta has made his career by burrowing under Trump’s skin like a chigger, and Trump has set the tone for his pressers by lashing back at Acosta. In 2018, you recall, Trump ordered Acosta to surrender the mic at a news conference, and when Acosta didn’t, Trump made a brief move to leave the podium. But he stayed and then opened fire on NBC’s Peter Alexander. The moral of the story is clear. Male reporters who contest his views make him mad. But female reporters who do the same make him melt down.

Jonathan Karl, chief Washington correspondent for ABC News and the recipient of Trump abuse—”You’re a third-rate reporter,” he told Karl in an April briefing—tells me that the trigger for Trump’s walk-offs appears to questions in which a reporter fact-checks him. That’s abundantly true in the Reid, Collins and Jiang instances. For somebody who has told at least 20,000 lies in the course of his presidency, Trump seems to flinch hardest when confronted with his own mendacity. There may be something about being contradicted in a group setting like the briefing that sets him off. As we saw in his recent one-on-one interviews with Chris Wallace and Jonathan Swan, he’s able to contest their exacting fact-checks without completely losing it. Group settings must make him more vulnerable to humiliation, hence his expectation that the world receive his words as the uncontested law, no matter how batty those words are.

Trumpies might think that avoiding direct and extended conflicts with detail-minded reporters during the pandemic lends his administration an edge. They might even think shutting down the pressers on no notice make him look like a bad-ass with his base. But I doubt these tongue-tied tantrums have such an effect. And so does Karl. “The walk-off is a surprising display of weakness—he allows the reporter to have the last word, ending the press conference by asking a question the president appears unable to handle,” he says.

Whether by design or by chance, Trump minimized Saturday’s embarrassment by staging his presser at his Bedminster, N.J., country club, where a “Greek chorus” of members stood in observance of the session and cheered the insults that he dumped on the journos. Regaining his composure backstage as he mentally replayed their ovations, Trump might even have thought he won the showdown—and so might his supporters who watched on TV. If so, we can expect additional walk-offs as the campaign and his presidency continue.




I want reporters to challenge Kayleigh McEneny too. She has made some outrageous statements.


Professor Snyder, who is an expert on authoritarianism suggests looking to Belarus to ward off more potential
Strongarming of an election.

Maddow has been covering these developments this week and draws the same potential outcomes if an election is overturned or corrupted.

The Washington Post: What Americans should learn from Belarus

Those Americans who believe that the Democrats are their best hope for thwarting the rise of authoritarianism must confront a basic question: Given that President Trump intends to spoil the elections if he can’t win them, how do citizens ensure that November’s victors take office? As Kamala D. Harris and Joe Biden dominate the news, we have looked past Belarus, whose courageous citizens show us the way. In this post-Soviet republic, run for a quarter-century by the same man, we have a refreshing example of how to face the worst — and win.

The predicament of Belarusans after the rigged presidential election of Aug. 9 is a sharpened preview of what Americans will face this November. The local dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, responded to the outbreak of covid-19 with magical thinking. As the economy crumbled, his opponents realized that they enjoyed a majority. When Lukashenko claimed an improbable victory after the election, Belarusans took to the streets. They were beaten and detained by riot police; Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his congratulations to Lukashenko. It is not hard to imagine that Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr would be satisfied with a similar turn of events here in November.

Yet the Belarusan story did not end there, because Belarusans were prepared and did not give up. They came out again, all over the country, in smaller groups that were harder to disperse. Avoiding direct clashes with security forces, they made their presence known with the colors they wore, the flags they waved and the posters they held. Onlookers applauded from their apartments, pedestrians flashed the V sign and drivers honked their horns in support.

On Tuesday, Belarusans were horrified by footage of police beating men and threatening to rape women. On Wednesday, parents gathered outside detention centers, demanding to see their children. That same day, women wearing white formed human chains to stop violence, and doctors demonstrated in front of their hospitals. Some policemen filmed themselves throwing their uniforms into the garbage, expressed solidarity with protesters or even changed sides. The minister of internal affairs, roughly the Belarusan equivalent of acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf, apologized for the beatings and detentions.

On Thursday, four days after the election, some of the detained protesters were released. They had been forced to adopt humiliating positions while in custody and have the red, black and blue of truncheon beatings on their backs, buttocks and legs. Outrage was general. Factory workers went on strike. A factory manager tried in good old Soviet style to call his workers together in support of Lukashenko. They told him that they had all voted for the opposition candidate. Most people had. First, one election official, and then a second, admitted that the official result had been falsified.

Americans have had other things on our minds this past week, but this is no excuse for looking the other way as others defend values we claim to hold dear. Yet even if we missed what happened Minsk, people in Minsk had learned from Minneapolis. The rhetoric and tactics in the cities and towns of Belarus carried echoes of Hong Kong; Khabarovsk, Russia; and Portland, Ore. Protesters around the world increasingly learn from one another.

Just as Trump is already preparing to do, Lukashenko was counting on the support of his cronies among local election officials, police and Russia. We cannot know whether his opponents will succeed: Unlike the United States, where the most effective Russian intervention comes through the Internet, in Belarus, Putin and Lukashenko can threaten an invasion.

As Americans think ahead to November, we should learn from people who have taken risks for democracy, in circumstances more challenging than our own. Belarusans teach us what I would call “the six Ps” of defending an electoral victory against authoritarian chaos: preparation, predominance, protest, peace, persistence and pluralism.

Preparation means understanding that your local authoritarian will spoil the election and planning in advance. Predominance means getting out the vote and winning by a wide margin, so everyone will know that the authoritarian is lying. Protest means taking the streets when the authoritarian makes his move. Peace means keeping demonstrations nonviolent as the regime discredits itself with violence. Persistence means coming back anyway the next day, and the day after that. And pluralism is a summons to groups, such as those Belarusan workers, women and doctors, to make their presence and their feelings known.

Democracy is a value, so it must be valued, and it is a practice, so it must be practiced. If we want it, we must be open to learning from others, and then be prepared to take responsibility for ourselves.


The Billionaire Behind Efforts to Kill the U.S. Postal Service

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the already-struggling U.S. Postal Service to the brink of financial collapse. But the most trusted and popular institution in America hasn’t been struggling by accident.

Since the 1970s, a concerted effort to popularize the fringe idea of privatizing the Postal Service has been advanced for nearly five decades with the support of one man: the billionaire and libertarian ideologue, Charles Koch, chairman and chief executive officer of Koch Industries.

This brief traces Koch’s connections, influence, and ideological push to weaken and ultimately privatize one of America’s most essential public services—and, along with it, the jobs of hundreds of thousands of public servants.


A look at Don Jr., who has gone all in on his father… and politics.

Donald Trump Jr. Is Ready. But for What, Exactly?

Of all the president’s children, he has the strongest connection to the politics, voters and online disinformation ecosystem that put his father in the White House. What will he do with it?

A case can be made that the apex of Donald Trump’s presidency occurred early this year, around the time of the State of the Union address. The Feb. 4 speech to a joint session of Congress began with Trump’s ignoring the outstretched hand of Speaker Nancy Pelosi — a pointed snub of the Democrat who, two months earlier, led his impeachment. For the next 78 minutes, Trump boasted about his accomplishments, like building an economy that “is the best it has ever been”; dished out red meat to his base, such as pledging a national ban on late-term abortions; and theatrically dispensed favors, including a Presidential Medal of Freedom for the conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh.

On that February evening, the first reported death from the coronavirus in the United States was more than three weeks away, and it appeared as if Trump had bent the office of the president, its trappings, the institutions of government and, indeed, all of American politics to his will. After he finished, Pelosi, standing behind Trump on the House rostrum, dramatically ripped up her copy of his speech. It was a made-for-meme moment — and at first, the meme’s natural constituency seemed to be the left, for whom Pelosi’s paper-shredding provided a rare flash of emotional gratification in an otherwise dark time. (The next day, the Republican-led Senate would vote to acquit Trump of all the impeachment articles, mooting the Democrats’ monthslong crusade.) But then Trump’s eldest child, Donald Trump Jr., had an idea.

It came to him while he was eating lunch at the Trump International Hotel in Washington the day after the speech. Trump Jr. envisioned a video featuring the most benign and unobjectionable parts of his father’s address — hailing a Tuskegee Airman, reuniting a soldier who had just returned from Afghanistan with his wife and children, giving a private-school scholarship to a Black fourth grader from Philadelphia — spliced with footage of Pelosi ripping up the speech, as if she were objecting to these beneficent gestures and not to the president himself. Trump Jr. called Benny Johnson, a veteran right-wing meme maker who works for the conservative student group Turning Point USA, and asked him to get cracking.

A few hours later, Trump Jr. posted the results of Johnson’s handiwork to his social media accounts. “Pelosi ripped up @realDonaldTrump’s speech last night,” he wrote on Twitter with a link to the video. “In that speech were stories of American Heroes & American Dreams. Their stories are more powerful than her hate.” The video immediately went viral, with the president himself tweeting it the next day.

Pelosi demanded that Twitter and Facebook take down the video, arguing that it was deceptively edited. The social media companies refused. Trump’s allies used the spat to drive even more traffic. “It would be soooooo terrible if this video hits 10,000,000 views,” tweeted Dan Scavino, the White House social media director. In the end, the video racked up 50 million views, according to Johnson. (Thirty-seven million people watched the State of the Union address on TV.) “Don Jr. is a meme general in the meme wars,” Johnson says, “and he is commanding the D-Day invasion.”

The episode was emblematic of Trump Jr.’s role in his father’s political carnival. In one respect, the brazen disingenuousness and virality of the meme — and the way in which one led to the other — was unmistakably Trumpian. But there was a discipline and polish to Trump Jr.’s move that his father’s shambolic, logorrheic self-expressions so often lack. (Trump’s own initial reaction to the speech-ripping was to go on a late-night-into-early-morning Twitter tear, retweeting Pelosi criticism by everyone from his former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley to the 300-follower Twitter account @JonMart93888215.) And yet Trump Jr.’s gloss did nothing to soften his father’s message. It wasn’t Trump watered down. It was Trump distilled.

When Trump ran for president in 2016, Trump Jr., who is now 42, was involved but hardly central to the effort. His sister Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, exercised sweeping influence over the campaign. Trump Jr., by contrast, was assigned small, discrete tasks, like putting his outdoorsmanship on display in a pheasant-hunting photo op with his brother, Eric, before the Iowa caucuses to counter attacks that his father was a liberal city slicker. (“Don, you can finally do something for me — you can go hunting,” his father told him, according to GQ magazine.) If he tried to go outside his narrow lane, disaster tended to follow. In the summer of 2016, he arranged for a Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, an encounter that later became a focus of Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. The Trump team’s defense of Trump Jr. boiled down to the argument that he wasn’t a traitor, just an idiot — “by no means a sophisticated political actor,” Chris Christie said. Michael Cohen, at the time Trump’s personal attorney, later told a Senate panel that “Mr. Trump was very quick to tell everybody that he thinks Don Jr. has the worst judgment of anyone he’s ever met in the world.” Or, as the president himself put it, according to The Atlantic, “He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.”

So it is one of the many surprises of Trump’s presidency that Trump Jr. has grown into arguably his father’s most valuable political weapon. “Don Jr. represents the emotional center of the MAGA universe,” says Jason Miller, a senior adviser on Trump’s re-election campaign. Before the pandemic, he was crisscrossing the country as his father’s most-requested campaign surrogate. Since the coronavirus curtailed his travel plans, he has become one of the Republican Party’s top virtual fund-raisers. His Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts have a combined 11 million followers and are vital cogs in the Republican messaging machine.

After spending much of his adult life searching for a purpose, Trump Jr. seems to have found one in politics. His siblings can often seem to be patiently waiting out their father’s presidency. Eric, who has been running the Trump Organization in his father’s absence, continues building hotels and luxury condominiums. Ivanka and Kushner went to work in the White House, but she has told friends that she’s looking forward to returning to New York and to her lifestyle brand.

But Trump Jr. does not want to go back to the way things were before. He has been electrified, and transformed, by his father’s presidency. He has largely given up the duties that go along with his title as an executive vice president of the Trump Organization in exchange for full-time politics. He has divorced — after 12 years of marriage and five children — Vanessa Haydon, who generally shied away from politics. His girlfriend of the last couple of years, with whom he recently bought a house in the Hamptons, is Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News host and conservative commentator who serves as the finance chair for his father’s re-election campaign.

Now, as he works to secure a second term for Trump this November, Trump Jr. is also thinking about his own political future. He is wagering that by going all in on his father’s presidency and the tribal passions it has unleashed, he can claim his own durable place in American politics — that whether his father leaves the White House in 2021 or 2025, the answer to what comes after Trump will be more Trump.

On Saturday, March 7, about 100 people gathered in a gilded ballroom at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla. The resort town was playing host to a retreat for major donors to Trump’s re-election campaign that weekend, and the highlight was a lavish party on Saturday night to celebrate Guilfoyle’s 51st birthday. The Trump family was there, save for Trump’s wife, Melania. So were a who’s who of the MAGA universe, including members of Congress, like Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; Fox News stars like Jesse Watters and Tucker Carlson; administration officials including National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and Trump loyalists like Rudy Giuliani; and even, for a time, President Jair M. Bolsonaro of Brazil, who was meeting with Trump at the club that weekend. Sergio Gor, Guilfoyle’s chief of staff on the Trump campaign and Trump Jr.’s collaborator on a forthcoming book, played M.C. and D.J., standing on a stage between two spinning disco balls. “It was like a Gatsby-esque extravaganza,” one guest recalls.

Trump Jr., an avid fisherman, had been up since before dawn, unsuccessfully pursuing a hammerhead shark at a nearby inlet. Poolside at Mar-a-Lago later that morning, among the club’s guests outfitted in white linen, he showed off pictures of the six-foot nurse shark he did catch to Gaetz; with his camouflage and fishing rod, he looked as if “he just came off the set of ‘Duck Dynasty,’” Gaetz recalls. By the evening, he had traded camo for a suit and tie and was seated at the head table alongside Guilfoyle in her gold-sequined minidress. “Princess, you are the best,” he said, according to The Washington Examiner, when it was his turn for a toast. “Thank you for everything that you do. I love you very much, and get back to work, OK?”

He turned to the guests. “You are in this room for a reason,” he said. “You guys have been the warriors, the fighters, the people who have been there every time we have made a call, every time we made a request.” He added, “I’m sure Kimberly will hit you up.” As the president stood beside Guilfoyle and led the group in a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday,” Trump Jr. looked on, beaming. When the song was finished, Guilfoyle shouted, “Four more years!” The president kissed her on the head and smiled at his son.

The two men had for years had a difficult relationship. Trump’s ex-wife Ivana recounts in her 2017 book, “Raising Trump,” that when she suggested naming their newly born first child Donald Jr., Trump protested: “You can’t do that! What if he’s a loser?” After his parents divorced, a 12-year-old Trump Jr. refused to speak to his father for a year. Later, he seemed intent on escaping the celebrity businessman’s shadow and reputation. At the Fiji fraternity at the University of Pennsylvania, Trump Jr.’s nickname was Ron Rump, and his fraternity brothers called him Ron. “He loved it, perhaps because it gave him an extra level of anonymity,” one of them recalls. Rather than working for the Trump Organization immediately after college, Trump Jr. spent a year and half in Aspen, Colo., skiing, hunting, fishing and tending bar at night.

In 2001, he moved back to New York City and took his place at the company. But his greatest contribution to the family business came on the set of “The Apprentice,” which he joined as an occasional boardroom judge in the show’s 2006 season. He was valued by the producers as a stabilizing presence, running interference between the cast and crew and the volatile star, his father. When Trump would berate crew members for a mistake, one “Apprentice” producer recalls, Trump Jr., speaking from a well of personal experience, would console them: “It’s not your fault; it’s your turn.”

People who worked on the show remember him often trying to lighten the mood. “He provided the comic relief, because his dad doesn’t have a sense of humor and Ivanka wasn’t someone who made jokes,” says Clay Aiken, the “American Idol” winner who appeared on “The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2012. “He was perfectly fine to take the piss out of himself, but sometimes he’d make a joke about his dad — and then you could tell he was really nervous his dad wouldn’t like it. His self-esteem was in the gutter.”

Much of the popular image of Trump Jr., especially among liberals, seems to stem from those years: “uselessly trying to impress a man who can only be impressed by himself” (GQ); “a recurring liability and a chronic headache” (The Daily Beast); the “Fredo” of the Trump family (Twitter). In the first days of Trump’s presidency, he seemed poised for more of the same. After the election, while Ivanka and Kushner headed to Washington, Trump Jr. stayed behind in New York, ostensibly to run the Trump Organization with Eric. But he had little to do. He was in charge of the company’s international portfolio, and while he could continue working on overseas projects that predated his father’s election, he couldn’t embark on new ones.

For a time, he tried to play a role in shaping the administration’s public-lands policy and other issues related to his outdoor activities, which had earned him the Secret Service code name Mountaineer. Senator Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, used an elk-hunting trip with Trump Jr. in November 2016 to lobby the incoming administration to pick an interior secretary from the Mountain West. “I wanted a Westerner,” Daines says, “and Westerner doesn’t mean West Virginia. It doesn’t mean Oklahoma.” Trump Jr. recommended Ryan Zinke, then a Montana congressman and a friend of Daines’s, for the Department of Interior job. Zinke got the nod but resigned in December 2018 after a scandal-plagued tenure.

Trump Jr.’s relatively low public profile ended on July 8, 2017, when The New York Times revealed his role in arranging the Trump Tower meeting the previous summer between Trump campaign officials and the Russian lawyer and her associates. Though little seems to have come out of the meeting, a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report released this month found that the Russians had “significant connections to the Russian government, including the Russian intelligence services.”

A few days after the Times article ran, Trump Jr. went on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show to defend himself in a softball interview. “There was nothing to tell,” he said of the meeting. “I wouldn’t have even remembered it until you started scouring through this stuff.” His stock among conservatives rose as he proceeded to wage a sustained campaign against the news media, Mueller and congressional investigators pursuing their own Russia inquiry. (It was reported this month that in 2019, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Republican and Democratic leaders made a criminal referral of Trump Jr. and several other Trump associates to the Justice Department for lying or providing contradictory testimony to the panel.) He became a frequent guest on Fox News and an enthusiastic participant in the political fights of the moment. “Don’s favorite part of politics is getting punched in the face with a jab and responding with a haymaker,” one person close to him says.

To those who know Trump Jr., his attraction to politics was not surprising. “He was the only family member who talked politics before his dad ran for president,” the person close to him says. “He’s the only one of the kids who would have found a way into politics if the dad hadn’t run for office.” And those politics have always tilted hard to the right. Speaking to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2018, Stephen K. Bannon, the Trump adviser who had run the right-wing website Breitbart, said, “I’d describe Don Jr., who I think very highly of, as a guy who believes everything on Breitbart is true.” Or as Sam Nunberg, an adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign, says, “Don’s a real winger, and I mean that as a compliment.”

In early 2018, Trump Jr. approached Andy Surabian, a young Republican operative who worked on the 2016 campaign and then in the White House for Bannon. Trump Jr. was by then a formidable presence on social media and Fox News, but, he explained to Surabian, he wanted to move into real politics by stumping for Republican congressional candidates in the midterm elections. Surabian put together a campaign schedule for him that, from May to November, featured 70 events in 17 states. Among the candidates he campaigned for was Matt Gaetz, a young congressman from Florida who spent much of his first term loudly demonstrating his loyalty to Trump. “We need fighters!” Trump Jr. said from behind a lectern decorated with a “Make America Gaetz Again!” sign. Now, Gaetz says, “constantly candidates are begging me to get his phone number, or a photo with him, or a chance for a retweet or an endorsement.”

The president can still be brutally dismissive of his son, grousing about his enthusiasm for firearms or questioning his political intelligence, according to multiple people present for such conversations. When Trump appeared on a special Father’s Day edition of “Triggered,” Trump Jr.’s biweekly online talk show for the Trump campaign, the awkwardness between the men was painful. Trump Jr. asked the president if he liked his beard. “Get rid of it,” Trump growled, to peals of nervous laughter from Trump Jr.

But the president is, at heart, a transactional person. As Trump Jr.’s political star has risen, Trump advisers say, so has Trump’s appreciation for him. Cliff Sims, a former White House communications aide, recalls watching television with the president in the private dining room off the Oval Office one afternoon when Trump Jr. appeared on the screen. “The president stopped what he was doing and turned up the volume,” Sims says. “He literally said to me, ‘He’s really good at this, isn’t he?’ He had this kind of feeling like, He’s a chip off the old block.”

Trump Jr. is now a key player in the Republican Party’s 2020 operation. He and Guilfoyle have become fund-raising powerhouses, coaxing large donations from high-dollar donors. (Guilfoyle is reportedly paid $15,000 a month by the Trump campaign.) Email solicitations sent out by the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House Republicans’ election arm, under Trump Jr.’s name have so far raised more than $3 million in small-dollar donations. “Triggered” is the most watched of the Trump campaign’s slate of digital shows. In September, Trump Jr. plans to return to the campaign trail four days a week; in October, that’s expected to increase to six days a week.

The greatest measure of his newfound political clout is the heated competition among Republicans to offer the most sycophantic quote about him. Gaetz hails Trump Jr. as “the most dynamic voice that you hear in American politics other than when it’s preceded by ‘Hail to the Chief.’” Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary, calls him “a downright rock star.” Jeff Roe, Senator Ted Cruz’s political strategist, deems him “a next-level, generational talent.” Republicans speak of Trump Jr.’s hunting-and-fishing prowess the way Red Guards once talked about Mao swimming the Yangtze. “I’ve shot with Green Beret snipers,” Daines says, “and Donald Trump Jr. is as good a shot as anybody I’ve ever shot with. He’s a remarkable marksman. And by the way, on fly fishing, too — I’m not trying to exaggerate his skills, but I’ve been around a lot of guys that fly fish, and he’s a guide-quality fly fisherman.”

In addition to Surabian, Trump Jr.’s innermost inner circle consists of Arthur Schwartz, a New York Republican operative with a reputation for the political dark arts; Tommy Hicks, a Texas private-equity scion and hunting buddy of Trump Jr.’s who’s now co-chairman of the Republican National Committee; and Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA who became friendly with Trump Jr. when he served as his body man during the final months of the 2016 campaign. A little further outside are people like Richard Grenell, who served as Trump’s ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence; Cliff Sims; Sergio Gor; and young Republican congressmen like Gaetz and Lee Zeldin of New York.

Through phone calls and text chains, the group — which Gaetz calls “the wolf pack”— formulates Trump Jr.’s political moves. “It could be fairly argued that Don Jr. and his political team,” a Trump adviser says, “have a better rapid-response operation than the White House communications office has ever had.” And Trump Jr.’s favorite form of rapid response, like his father’s, is the social media post. “He stares at his iPhone all the time,” says a Republican operative who has traveled with Trump Jr. “He’s locked and loaded.”

The wolf pack is made up of some of the most cynical and situational people in G.O.P. politics, whose priorities oscillate between “owning the libs” and loyalty enforcement among Republicans. Last October, Trump Jr. began tweeting against Lindsey Graham for not doing enough, as the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, to protect his father from impeachment, raising an online army under the hashtag #WheresLindsey to demand that Graham issue subpoenas on Trump’s behalf. That month, Graham attended a World Series game with the president. “For at least three innings, Lindsey was squawking at the president to get Don Jr. off his ass,” says Gaetz, who was with them at the game. (Graham’s office declined to comment.)

In February, Trump Jr. posted to his Instagram account a picture of Mitt Romney, who had just voted to convict his father in the Senate impeachment trial, in some tragically high-waisted jeans with the caption, “MOM JEANS: Because you’re a pussy.” It was a juvenile move, and it was the subject of some debate within the wolf pack. Over lunch that day, Trump Jr. asked Surabian what he thought of the meme. (If the message is deemed too inflammatory, it will often appear on Schwartz’s Twitter account instead of Trump Jr.’s.) The two ultimately concluded that while the language and image would undoubtedly generate negative headlines, it would also grab eyeballs, and that Trump Jr.’s own attached comment, calling on Romney to “be expelled from the @GOP,” justified the post. “The meme got attention and guaranteed it went viral,” the person close to Trump Jr. says, “but it was the message that Mitt should be kicked out of the caucus that we cared about and wanted to make sure got out there.”

During the 2016 campaign, Trump Jr. posted to Instagram a picture, titled “The Deplorables,” of the faces of various high-profile Trump supporters superimposed on the bodies of characters from the action movie “The Expendables”; one face was that of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character that had by then been embraced as a mascot by white supremacists online. He also posted on Twitter a picture of a candy bowl with the text: “If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.” The trope of undesirable people hiding among good ones dates to the Holocaust, and the “poisoned candy” metaphor had become popular with xenophobes online.

In each instance, Trump Jr. professed ignorance. “I’ve never even heard of Pepe the Frog,” he told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News. “I thought it was a frog in a wig. I thought it was funny.” Elsewhere, he said the Skittles picture was “a statistical thing.” And yet throughout his father’s presidency, Trump Jr. has preserved his winking proximity to the far-right and conspiracist fringe, while avoiding his father’s clumsier cycles of embraces and disavowals.

The president in the past several months has routinely retweeted the Twitter accounts of followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which posits that Trump is doing battle with a cabal of Democratic and “deep state” elites who run a child-sex-trafficking ring. When Trump was asked about QAnon, which the F.B.I. has labeled a domestic terrorism threat, at a White House news conference this month, he replied, “I’ve heard these are people that love our country.” Trump Jr. has himself avoided such signal-boosting and overt praise of QAnon, but in May he posted to Instagram a picture of Joe Biden saying, “See you later, alligator!” alongside an image of an alligator responding, “In a while, pedophile!” When Jake Tapper of CNN subsequently called out the Trumps for the smear, Trump Jr. responded on Twitter: “Jake, I’m sorry that you’re more upset (Triggered!) about a joke meme than you are @JoeBiden’s gross habit of touching & sniffing young girls.” Early this year, he posted a picture of himself to Instagram holding a custom AR-15-style rifle emblazoned with the “Jerusalem cross,” a symbol used by Christian soldiers during the Crusades that has been adopted by far-right extremist groups; the rifle’s magazine clip was decorated with an image of Hillary Clinton behind bars.

Surabian, speaking for Trump Jr., told CNN that “symbols on firearms depicting various historical warriors are extremely common within the Second Amendment community,” and that the Clinton-behind-bars image was a meme intended to “mock Hillary Clinton” and “trigger humorless liberals.” As for the Biden-as-pedophile posts, Trump Jr. maintained that he was just “joking around.” When I asked whether Trump Jr. believes in the QAnon conspiracy theory, Surabian replied, “Of course not.” But in July, Trump Jr. finally ran afoul of Twitter by tweeting a viral video making false claims about hydroxychloroquine’s efficacy in treating Covid-19. Twitter hid the post from view and suspended his tweeting privileges for 12 hours. “Big tech is activist liberal,” he complained on Fox News.

By then, he was already adept at strategically picking fights outside the conservative media bubble. Last fall, when he published his book “Triggered” — a farrago of tossed-off personal history and predictable political attacks that sold 287,000 hardcover copies, thanks, in part, to bulk purchases by the Republican National Committee — Hachette Book Group pressed him to do some mainstream media appearances. Trump Jr.’s team, seeking a spectacle, reached out to “The View.” He came prepared. When Joy Behar asked him about his father boasting on the “Access Hollywood” tape of sexually assaulting women, Trump Jr. fired back that Behar had worn blackface to a Halloween party in the 1970s and that Whoopi Goldberg had once defended Roman Polanski. “We’ve all done things that we regret,” he said, “if we’re talking about bringing the discourse down.” The only “View” host he didn’t go out of his way to antagonize was Meghan McCain, even offering her a semi-apology for his father’s attacks against hers. “We realized that the biggest headline to come out of his appearance could not be Meghan McCain confronting him about his dad,” says the person close to Trump Jr.

In February, Trump Jr. traveled to Iowa on the eve of the state’s caucuses in a show of force. Although his father faced no serious opposition for the Republican nomination, he was leading a group of some 80 congressmen, cabinet members and other Republicans to stump for Trump there and, more important, rough up the Democrats. He was just about to speak at a “Keep Iowa Great” event outside Des Moines when a Jewish protester began yelling that Trump Jr.’s father was responsible for a rise in anti-Semitism. As the protester was hauled out of the rally by security guards, Trump Jr. shouted, “I don’t think anyone’s done more for Israel and American Jews than Donald Trump!”

With the crowd cheering him on, he launched into a tirade against the reporters in the room, then pledged to do everything in his power to help his father win re-election. “We don’t just have to lose,” he said. “We don’t just have to roll over and die because the other side wants us to and their buddies in the mainstream media want us to. That’s not how it works anymore.” He added, “We will fight harder than any people you’ve ever seen for the next 10 months to make sure that this continues.”

At the time, it seemed likely that Trump would win a second term. But then the coronavirus happened, infecting over 5.5 million Americans (including Guilfoyle) and killing more than 170,000 of them, paralyzing the economy and imperiling Trump’s re-election prospects. At the end of the Democratic National Convention this month, he trailed Biden in the RealClearPolitics national polling average by 7.6 points — not an insurmountable deficit, but a daunting one.

At the White House and inside the Trump campaign, there remains a stubborn, almost defiant sense of optimism — born, they believe, out of experience — that the president will win in November. “I can say that, having been there four years ago, things looked a lot worse back in 2016 than whatever crisis politically the president might be going through right now,” Charlie Kirk says. When I asked Jason Miller about the degree of worry inside his office, he replied, “I haven’t picked up on any of the W-word that you just threw around in such a cavalier fashion.”

But Trump Jr. is apparently worried. “Don’s the only person who thinks they’re going to lose,” says a prominent conservative activist who is in regular contact with him and other key members of Trump’s political operation. “He’s like, ‘We’re losing, dude, and we’re going to get really hurt when we lose.’” An electoral defeat in November, Trump Jr. fears, could result in federal prosecutions of Trump, his family and his political allies. He has told the conservative activist that he expects that a Biden administration will not participate in a “peaceful transition” and instead will “shoot the prisoners.” (“This is 100 percent false,” Surabian says. “Don does not have these concerns.”)

Even assuming his worst fears aren’t realized, a Trump defeat in November would pose an existential question for Trump Jr. He has become a figure of genuine political value, but that value remains mostly a function of his status as the premier surrogate for his father. This is the most treasured currency there is in a Republican Party in which political fortunes now rise and fall based on proximity and devotion to Donald Trump — but what happens to that currency if Trump leaves the stage? At the same time, it is difficult to see Trump Jr. coming fully into his own as a political figure until he does what he struggled unsuccessfully to do in his younger years: escape his father’s shadow. Although he would obviously prefer that his father win in November, people close to him say that, in some ways, having Trump out of the White House would be advantageous for Trump Jr. They use words like “unshackled” and “free” and speculate excitedly about his running for office in Montana or Florida — or, a few dare to dream, even the presidency — in 2024.

Those who are familiar with Trump Jr.’s thinking, though, say that’s not going to happen — at least not in the next four years. “Don can do everything he wants to do in politics,” says the person close to him, “without running for office.” The wolf pack talks about how Trump Jr. would be a natural podcaster or talk-radio host; Fox News — or perhaps a new conservative TV channel — could give him his own show. He has expressed interest in playing a prominent role in a revivified National Rifle Association and is open to the idea of serving as chairman of the Republican National Committee. This month, he will release his second book, “Liberal Privilege,” a rehash of Biden’s various supposed sins that he wrote during the pandemic lockdown.

Trump has marveled to aides at the response Trump Jr. received when, before the pandemic, he appeared at Trump rallies, where he was typically greeted with cheers of “46! 46!” (Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States.) “It’s sort of cool if you’re at a stadium of 15,000 people and they start chanting ‘46’ when you’re speaking,” Trump Jr. told the comedian Jim Norton in February when he appeared on the satellite-radio show Norton hosts with Sam Roberts. Still, he said, “I don’t know that I’d like the day job, and that’s a big part of it.”

Later in the interview, he complained that “someone in the mainstream media will write an article” about his cursing on the show. (No one in the mainstream media ever did, but then, “owning the libs” has never required actual owning of the libs.) “Did you ever think, though, that you’d get to be an adult, and then there’d be somebody who wanted to write a newspaper article that you used the F-word?” Roberts asked.

“No, I did not,” Trump Jr. said, “because we’re not adults, guys. The reality is, like, there are no adults in the room anymore.”

There is also a link to listen to the article on the site.


Those who like government least govern worst

From the Iraq War to the coronavirus: why Republicans fail at governance.

The GOP stands for Grand Old Party, but there is no past on display at the 2020 Republican National Convention: No previous Republican presidents, or previous Republican presidential nominees, are speaking. History, for this Republican Party, began on June 15, 2015, when Donald J. Trump descended a golden escalator. That suits both sides just fine. The Bush family, and the Republicans who admire them, view Trump and his followers with horror. In turn, Trump and his allies look upon the Bush wing of the party with contempt.

Trump’s rise has driven a rehabilitation of the George W. Bush brand. Bush’s personal decency, his impulse toward tolerance and inclusivity, glows against the backdrop of Trump’s casual cruelty and personal decadence. But the catastrophic misgovernance in which Bush ended his presidency, and Trump ends his first term, reveals the continuity between the two administrations.

When Bush left the White House in 2009, the Iraq War was a recognized debacle, with thousands of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, casualties of its chaos. The global economy was in collapse, driven by a calamitous void of regulatory oversight of Wall Street, and the disastrous decision to let Lehman Brothers fall. Less than 10 years later, the next Republican president is ending his first term with nearly 200,000 Americans dead of the coronavirus — the worst pandemic performance, by far, of any rich nation — and an economy in shambles.

Bush and Trump are so personally different, and their administrations so temperamentally opposite, that it feels awkward to compare them, like trying to find the symmetries between a car crash and a spontaneous combustion. But in his new book, To Start a War , Robert Draper chronicles the internal deliberations and dynamics that led the Bush administration into Iraq. In doing so, Draper reminds us of the throughline between the two administrations: a toxic contempt for the government itself.

Draper’s narrative starts in the hours after 9/11 when Deputy Secretary for Defense Paul Wolfowitz demands an assessment of Iraqi involvement in terrorism since the Gulf War. The missive, time-stamped 1:26 am on 9/12, was carried to Gary Greco, a senior Defense Intelligence Agency officer, by a deputy, who asked, “What the hell does it mean?” Greco knew exactly what it meant. “It means we’re going to war in Iraq,” he replied.

Draper conducted interviews with more than 300 people involved in the runup to the Iraq War, and the stories they tell, assembled one after the other, find a grim, repetitive tempo. Over and over, intelligence analysts and regional experts tried to talk Bush administration leadership out of their belief that Iraq was somehow involved in 9/11, that it sought an alliance with al-Qaeda, that it posed a threat to the United States, that it would be easy to invade and rebuild, that there was firm evidence of weapons of mass destruction. And over and over again, Bush administration leaders dismissed them as hidebound bureaucrats whose obsession with process blinded them to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

Take the links, or lack thereof, between Iraq and al-Qaeda. The intelligence community kept shooting down the theories — and the frequently fabricated pieces of evidence — connecting the two entities. Senior Bush officials asked again and again, and the answer kept coming back the same. To Doug Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, it was proof that “no one at the CIA had an open mind.”

His colleague Wolfowitz reached out to the UK’s Ministry of Defense. “Surely your intelligence people have got stuff on this,” he begged. They turned him down. So Wolfowitz and Feith formed their own small team to make the argument that the intelligence agencies wouldn’t. Their team put together a briefing to show Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who loved it — in part because one slide accused the CIA of neglecting a favorite adage of his, that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” — and asked that it be shown to the CIA.

The meeting between the actual intelligence analysts and the ad hoc team assembled to come to the conclusions they wouldn’t is darkly comic. “This is your intelligence,” Feith tells the assembled CIA analysts — the implication being that the CIA gathered the data, but they were either too dim or too cautious to understand what it said. “They were connecting dots that weren’t even there — things we’d dismissed and which, in hindsight, never took place,” recalled one analyst in attendance. Bureaucrats, right?

Draper’s book is full of stories like this, where the catalytic ingredient is contempt for the government employees who actually had the expertise — the State Department officials who knew what it would mean to leave a power vacuum in Iraq, the United Nations weapons inspectors who had scoured suspected WMD sites in the country, the generals who understood that keeping the peace would be harder than routing Saddam’s forces, the foreign intelligence agencies who had discredited the sources the administration was relying on, the regional experts who warned against disbanding Iraq’s army and civil service. Tragically, the Bush team’s contempt for the weapons inspectors was such that when they didn’t find weapons, it became, inside the administration, part of the case for war: It just showed how canny and deceptive Saddam really was, and how little you could trust the UN to contain him.

In some cases — particularly speeches given by Dick Cheney — the Bush team was simply lying about what was known, or not known. On this, Draper’s reporting is clear: Key members of the Bush administration were obsessed with invading Iraq long before 9/11. There was no intelligence, no argument, that would have shaken their conviction. But often, the truth really was unclear, the intelligence really was uncertain, the decision-maker at least somewhat open to persuasion. In those cases, trust became the crucial question, and the Bushies always found it easy to mistrust anyone they could dismiss as a bureaucrat.

This was particularly true in the Defense Department, where Rumsfeld saw any dissent as evidence of the military’s fear of his modernization agenda. “The second a question is raised about any current policy or any current process, the response is immediate and violent,” he wrote in a memo. “‘You must not change anything.’” There was likely truth to this assessment when it came to abandoning old weapons programs, but it proved disastrous in planning for a postwar Iraq.

In February 2002, Army chief of staff Eric Shinseki told the Senate Armed Services Committee that occupying Iraq would require “several hundred thousand soldiers.” Furious, Rumsfeld deployed Wolfowitz to the Hill to rebut Shinseki. Wolfowitz said the four-star general’s estimate was “wildly off the mark” (it wasn’t) because the Iraqis “will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down.” He added the war would be near costless, because Iraq’s oil exports would pay for the bulk of reconstruction. Shinseki was shortly thereafter forced into retirement.

Wolfowitz’s rebuttal reflected Bush’s views. The president thought the bureaucrats misunderstood human nature. They were obsessed with how to rebuild bureaucracy, share power, deliver services. Bush believed all people yearn for freedom, and warnings of a bloody aftermath were an insult to the Iraqi spirit. Planning for postwar governance wasn’t needed because America wouldn’t need to engage in much postwar governance.

Liberals often wonder how conservatives can think the government too inefficient to offer health insurance but capable of invading and rebuilding foreign countries. The answer to the riddle is simple: Bush, at least, didn’t think the American government would have to do the hard work of governance in a foreign land. All it had to do was destroy the existing government.

The Bush team’s contempt for government took a different form than the Trump team’s contempt for government. The Bushies saw themselves as reformers who knew better than the government they led. They were capable, experienced, steeped in the values of the private sector. They wanted to remake the government in their own image. But their administration was a disaster in part because they didn’t know better than the intelligence officials they dismissed, the financial regulators they later ignored, the FEMA staffers they left under incompetent leadership. They didn’t respect the institution they ran enough to listen to what it knew.

The Trump team is more outrightly hostile to the government they lead. They fear “the deep state” too much to try and reform it. They don’t want to remake federal agencies so much as corrupt them for their own gain. Where the Bush team was, at times, too interested in the minutia of the agencies they led, second-guessing even the smallest decisions from civil servants, the Trump team is detached from the agencies they run, unaware, annoyed, or threatened by the workings and responsibilities of the executive branch.

But the coronavirus disaster highlights the way different manifestations of contempt for the government can end in the same place. Like the Bush administration before it, the Trump administration is led by a president who thought he knew better than the experts, and didn’t. Like the Bush administration before it, the Trump administration sidelined internal critics, silencing those who said the administration was doing insufficient planning and committing insufficient resources. Like the Bush administration before it, the Trump administration has been dismissive of the concerns and models offered by foreign governments and contemptuous of international organizations. And like the Bush administration before it, the Trump administration’s misjudgments have led to a shocking casualty count and an economic crisis.

There are many differences between Bush and Trump as individuals, and many differences between their administrations. But both of them represent a Republican Party soaked in contempt for, and mistrust of, the federal government. When you don’t respect, or even like, the institution you lead, you lead it poorly. When that institution is incredibly, globally important — as the US government is — leading it poorly can invite global catastrophe. And sure enough, under the last two Republican administrations, it has. There is continuity here, of the most consequential sort: a continuity of terrible outcomes.


The Washington Post’s Editorial Board fierce take-down of T’s leadership and his allegiances for autocrats and strong men, his spinning of facts, his disruption of NATO, his conspiracy theories, blaming others, fixation of calling news sources fake etc are all the more reason to get him out of office in November.

The man is not fit. He will bring down this democracy if we let him.

The Post’s View • Opinion

Global freedom would suffer grievous harm in a second Trump term

Opinion by the Editorial Board

August 28, 2020

THE 21st century, like the one that came before it, has seen the emergence of a fateful struggle over the nature of human governance. Regimes founded on democracy and human rights, which 25 years ago appeared to have triumphed, now face a grave challenge from a resurgent authoritarianism, which employs new technologies to refashion the tyranny that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union could not sustain. At stake is not only which nations will dominate global affairs, but also whether individual freedoms — of expression, of assembly, of religious faith — will survive.

A 21st-century victory for democracy, like those that came in World War II and the Cold War, is inconceivable without the leadership of the United States. America must prevail in the race to develop new technologies, rally fellow democracies to counter authoritarian aggression, and reform capitalism and democracy itself to serve a new age. But President Trump cannot deliver that leadership. On the contrary, over the past three years he has done as much as any global actor to advance the cause of authoritarianism and undermine the free world.

Mr. Trump’s most conspicuous aid to tyranny has been his relentless support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who aided Mr. Trump’s 2016 election and whose foreign policy is laser-focused on weakening the United States and dividing it from other democracies in the NATO alliance. Mr. Trump has provided invaluable support for this cause, most recently by ordering a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany. While he has not hesitated to publicly trash NATO and the leaders of Germany, Canada and Britain, Mr. Trump has never uttered a word of criticism of Mr. Putin, even after receiving U.S. intelligence reports indicating that Moscow paid bounties to the Afghan Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers.

Until recently, Mr. Trump offered similar obeisance to Chinese ruler Xi Jinping, calling him a “brilliant leader” and “a great man.” Mr. Trump encouraged Mr. Xi’s cultural genocide against the Uighur population of the Xinjiang region. That campaign has pioneered Beijing’s technologies of comprehensive surveillance and other AI-aided repression — tools that are central to the new model of authoritarianism it is promoting to the rest of the world. Mr. Trump also promised Mr. Xi he would remain silent on the suppression of Hong Kong’s democracy movement while negotiating trade concessions. The administration’s belated reversals on those issues, tied to Mr. Trump’s attempt to shift blame for the more than 177,000 U.S. covid-19 deaths, has predictably altered neither China’s behavior nor the conclusion among many Asians that the United States can no longer be counted on to defend democratic values or resist Chinese aggression.

The Cold War was a grueling conflict waged country by country, often in the far reaches of the developing world. Barring the outbreak of a direct military conflict between the United States and China, the 21st-century counterpart is likely to be similar. China and Russia will peddle their authoritarian solutions while the democracies press for free speech and free elections. That competition is already well underway — and again, Mr. Trump has a record of backing the wrong side.

Aspiring strongmen who are dismantling democratic institutions in their countries have been embraced by Mr. Trump and welcomed to the White House, sometimes rupturing bans imposed by his predecessors. This sordid parade has featured Abdel Fatah al-Sissi of Egypt, Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Prayut Chan-ocha of Thailand, Viktor Orban of Hungary and Andrzej Duda of Poland; the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte turned down Mr. Trump’s invitation. At the same time, Mr. Trump has shunned democratic leaders attempting to resist the Russians or Chinese — most notably Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has never received a White House invitation after resisting Mr. Trump’s demand for a politicized investigation of Joe Biden. This month, Mr. Trump has done nothing to help the Belarus democratic movement seeking to overthrow the longtime dictator of a nation Mr. Putin seeks to dominate.

The democratic leaders of South Korea and Japan, the two most important U.S. allies in East Asia, have been whipsawed by Mr. Trump’s insistence on sweeping trade concessions and vast increases in subsidies for U.S. bases on their territories. They watched with dismay as Mr. Trump meanwhile proclaimed his “love” for North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, a Chinese client, and scaled back U.S. military exercises with South Korea.

Mr. Trump has campaigned for democracy only in nations where he has other political interests, such as Venezuela, whose Cuba-allied regime is despised by many Florida voters. Even there his advocacy has been feckless. After an attempted uprising by a U.S.-backed opposition leader failed last year, Mr. Trump wrote him off, and he has recently expressed interest in meeting dictator Nicolás Maduro.

For all this, the greatest damage Mr. Trump has done to the cause of democracy has come at home. His assaults on the U.S. media and courts, attempts to politicize Justice Department investigations, and bald efforts to manipulate voting in November’s election threaten to degrade what has been the world’s strongest democracy while offering a model for budding authoritarians around the world. His disregard for science and restrictions on immigration have weakened the chances that the United States will win the race to develop new technologies. His incessant lying has helped to create a political culture in which wild conspiracy theories flourish and there is no consensus on basic facts, making informed legislative debate and compromise all but impossible.

Though damaged, U.S. democracy and the global cause of freedom so far have survived Mr. Trump’s term in office, in large part because they have the determined support of millions of citizens. Yet there should be no question that in a second Trump term, they would suffer grievous and perhaps irreversible harm. If the 21st century is to be a time in which human societies are grounded in individual freedoms, rather than dominated by an all-powerful state, Mr. Trump must be defeated.


Insightful and oh so true.


I cherry picked from a newsletter I read from (PeakProsperity) which has been tracing the pandemic numbers early on, and describes what the markets are doing, and what they represent on a macro level.

This MotherJones video puts in perspective the huge differences between the haves and the have-nots in terms of income levels and results in a potential all-out war between the classes.

We could/should be bracing for huge amount of civil unrest come November or sooner.

Worth watching and am putting it under opinion. :weary:

  • Blog

Suddenly Fear Of Social Unrest Is Everywhere

2020 has revealed this truth clearly in the response to the covid-19 pandemic. With the $5+ trillion unleashed between the monetary and fiscal “rescue” stimulus efforts, the battle cry from our “leaders” has been: Defend the rich!

Despite an unprecedented decline in economic activity, asset prices have more than recovered their losses and many are now back at all-time-highs in what has been the shortest-lived bear market history:

We have been referring to these detrimental policies as the Leave No Billionaire Behind (#small-victories LNBB) program, as they’ve resulted in a massive boom for the uber-wealthy, while the rest of America has lost tens of millions of jobs and received meager to no assistance.

To get a sense of the gargantuan disparity between the haves and the have-nots, watch this 2-minute video:

And these policies aren’t going away. In fact, as Fed Chairman Jerome Powell stated yesterday, our leaders are doubling- and tripling-down on them.

In my recent interview with former Fed insider Danielle DiMartino-Booth, she interprets Powell’s comments yesterday as nothing less than a public commitment to “do even more” of what the Fed has been doing since 2009.

So if you think creating a zombie economy that enriches the elites while screwing the rest of us has been bad, boy, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet…

There is a line of intolerance that, once crossed, will turn the desperate masses against the small few benefitting so vastly from today’s system.

Skeptical it could happen? History begs to differ. Its list of social revolutions, uprisings and rebellions is so long it makes your head spin. Even the number that have happened just within the past decade is staggeringly large

And with an upcoming US Presidential election as divisive as this one? Not only will a large part of America be angry at the outcome, whomever wins, imagine what would happen should the results be contested in a protracted dispute (as has already been hinted at by both parties)? It would be the equivalent of tossing a grenade into the already-overstuffed powder keg.

Source: PeakProsperity Newsletter, and MotherJones video (YouTube)


Yeah, we’re definitely seeing two very different economies through this crisis.


How Facebook Became the Social Media Home of the Right

While the left has flowed to Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, Mark Zuckerberg has laid out the welcome mat to the Trump legions.

Not too long after Donald J. Trump was elected president, a pattern started to emerge on Facebook that had not taken place in the company’s history. Millions of young people started to abandon the social network, either quitting Facebook entirely or deleting it from their phones and other devices. At the time the theory floating around tech circles was that Facebook was full of old people and boring posts, and other platforms, like Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, were more youthful and fun. But in recent weeks it’s become clear that the exodus was likely a result of something larger. Facebook has become the home of right-wing America, while Twitter and Snap have become the home of the left.

This become clearly apparent in the past week, when Jack Dorsey finally decided to start labeling Trump’s most dangerous posts as “glorifying violence” and even fact-checking other posts where Trump lied about mail-in ballots contributing to voter fraud (they don’t). At the same time Mark Zuckerberg chose to go in the completely opposite direction, ceding that he is not the arbiter of free speech, and even going as far as to have a call with Trump himself to vociferate Facebook’s stance. Conversely, Evan Spiegel, the CEO of Snap, announced that he will no longer promote any of Trump’s posts on the platform. “We simply cannot promote accounts in America that are linked to people who incite racial violence, whether they do so on or off our platform,” Spiegel said in a memo to employees.

In reality, by ceding, and even groveling, to the conservatives in the way that Zuckerberg has, he has already created a divide not within Facebook itself, but within the entire internet. Facebook has become the home of the conservative right, and as a result, the most shared content on Facebook is almost always conservative in nature. For example, Kevin Roose, a reporter with the New York Times, often posts (on Twitter) a list of the top 10 posts shared on Facebook in the past 24 hours, which almost always come predominantly from conservative voices, including Fox News, Ben Shapiro, ForAmerica, and the right-wing conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza. On the other hand, Twitter has largely become the voice of the left, where the most shared stories, content, videos, and opinions are often much more latitudinarian in nature. Think about almost every video that has gone viral in recent years showing something dumb Trump has done or said, a moment of police brutality, or someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez berating a Republican senator or CEO banker. They all found their vitality on Twitter. Or go and look at the trending topics of the day, which are almost always topics of the left. On Thursday the number one post on Facebook was a video shared by the conservative commentator and political activist Candace Owens, where Owens said that George Floyd was a “horrible human being” and that “racially motivated police brutality is a myth.” The video was viewed on Facebook 24 million times in less than a day.

Internally at these companies, employees have responded accordingly. At Twitter, current and former employees have voiced pride in the fact that Twitter has finally taken a stance against the most divisive user on its platform. “It’s about time!” a former employee told me. “I’m proud of Twitter.” In comparison, at Facebook, hundreds of employees staged a virtual walkout, while some even quit working for the company, publicly denouncing Zuckerberg’s views. The New York Times reported that internally at Facebook, employees have called out Zuckerberg’s decision as “weak leadership” showing a “lack of backbone.” In and around Silicon Valley, anyone I’ve spoken to who has worked with Zuckerberg at one point or another has called him every name in the book for his actions around allowing Trump to act this way on his platform. “Fuck Zuck” has been texted to me more than once.

The turmoil unfurling within Facebook, and the decisions by Dorsey and Spiegel, are in many ways a reflection of what’s happening in society today. There’s strife when the people on the platform don’t get their way, and celebration and pride when they do. In the same way that some employees quit at Facebook when Zuckerberg sucked up to Trump, you’re seeing the same thing happen in society, where people have abandoned one platform in lieu of another, largely because one agrees with your viewpoint and the other does not. If this is the case, it leads back to the age-old question of whether social media is a net positive or a net negative for society. As someone who has covered these companies since their earliest days, this is a question I have always struggled to answer. For example, in the same week that Trump accused a media commentator of murder, lied about voting, and incited violence against Americans, the video of George Floyd being killed largely might not have been seen had it not been for people on social media sharing it. The images and videos of protests in large cities led to more protests across America, until, in a matter of days, every single state, and even other countries, saw their streets filled with millions marching in protest against police brutality and racism.

I spoke to both a former Twitter employee and a former Facebook employee about this, and their answers were surprisingly similar. Social networks are neither a net negative nor a net positive for society, they both said. Rather, they magnify our most visceral feelings and beliefs, at a blazingly fast speed. We yell at one another and point fingers, these former employees said, until we eventually abandon the platform that does not align with our views, and instead go to the one that does. And it appears, that after Facebook and Twitter both took two completely different stances on Trump, that one has finally cemented itself as the home of the right, the other, the left. And in the same way that there is only left and right in America, on social media, there is nothing in the middle.

I follow a few liberal FB groups. In the past couple of days TWO of them have suddenly disappeared, taken down by FB. For one of them, this is the second time. Yet all of these secret groups we keep finding out about where police and ICE agents and what not are saying horrible things seem to survive just fine.


I recently deactivated my FB account, just didn’t enjoy spending any time that site anymore. It’s all clickbait, buy now, and hate Democrats. Still on the gram but I’d love to just declare total social media bankruptcy and close all my accounts.


Yes, tough call…all of them aggregate your interests and filter you through accordingly. All are free…but being a pawn to their POV is not a free place to reside. I use FB cautiously.


Thank you. Glad this editorial from a Republican can call out T for his egregious claims that the election will be rigged.

Benjamin L. Ginsberg practiced election law for 38 years. He co-chaired the bipartisan 2013 Presidential Commission on Election Administration .

Legions of Republican lawyers have searched in vain over four decades for fraudulent double voting. At long last, they have a blatant example of a major politician urging his supporters to illegally vote twice.

The only hitch is that the candidate is President Trump.

The president, who has been arguing that our elections are “rigged” and “fraudulent,” last week instructed voters to act in a way that would fulfill that prophecy. On Wednesday in North Carolina, he urged supporters to double vote, casting ballots at the polls even if they have already mailed in absentee ballots. A tweet claiming he meant only for people to check that their ballots had been received and counted sounded fine — until Trump renewed his original push on Thursday evening in Pennsylvania and again Friday at a telerally.

The president’s actions — urging his followers to commit an illegal act and seeking to undermine confidence in the credibility of election results — are doubly wrong. They impose an obligation on his campaign and the Republican Party to reevaluate their position in the more than 40 voting cases they’re involved in around the country.

These cases are part of a torrent of 2020 voting litigation that pits Republicans’ belief that election results won’t be credible without state law safeguards against Democrats’ charges that many such rules are onerous and designed to suppress the votes of qualified citizens inclined to vote Democratic.

The president’s words make his and the Republican Party’s rhetoric look less like sincere concern — and more like transactional hypocrisy designed to provide an electoral advantage. And they come as Republicans trying to make their cases in courts must deal with the basic truth that four decades of dedicated investigation have produced only isolated incidents of election fraud.

These are painful conclusions for me to reach. Before retiring from law practice last month, I spent 38 years in the GOP’s legal trenches. I was part of the 1990s redistricting that ended 40 years of Democratic control and brought 30 years of GOP successes in Congress and state legislatures. I played a central role in the 2000 Florida recount and several dozen Senate, House and state contests. I served as counsel to all three Republican national party committees and represented four of the past six Republican presidential nominees (including, through my law firm, Trump 2020).

Each Election Day since 1984, I’ve been in precincts looking for voting violations, or in Washington helping run the nationwide GOP Election Day operations, overseeing the thousands of Republican lawyers and operatives each election on alert for voting fraud. In every election, Republicans have been in polling places and vote tabulation centers. Republican lawyers in every state have been able to examine mail-in/absentee ballot programs.

The president has said that “the only way we can lose … is if cheating goes on.” He has asserted that mail-in voting is “very dangerous” and that “there is tremendous fraud involved and tremendous illegality.”

The lack of evidence renders these claims unsustainable. The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged. Absentee ballots use the same process as mail-in ballots — different states use different labels for the same process.

The Trump 2016 campaign, of which I was not a part, could produce no hard evidence of systemic fraud. Trump established a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in 2017 to expose all the fraud he maintains permeates our elections. He named the most vociferous hunters of Democratic election fraud to run the commission. It disbanded without finding anything.

The Heritage Foundation Election Fraud Database has compiled every instance of any kind of voter fraud it could find since 1982. It contains 1,296 incidents, a minuscule percentage of the votes cast. A study of results in three states where all voters are mailed actual ballots, a practice at the apex of the president’s outrage, found just 372 possible cases of illegal voting of 14.6 million cast in the 2016 and 2018 general elections — 0.0025 percent.

The president’s rhetoric has put my party in the position of a firefighter who deliberately sets fires to look like a hero putting them out. Republicans need to take a hard look before advocating laws that actually do limit the franchise of otherwise qualified voters. Calling elections “fraudulent” and results “rigged” with almost nonexistent evidence is antithetical to being the “rule of law” party.

Many of the GOP’s litigation concerns are meritorious in principle. But the president’s inflammatory language undercuts the claim that Republicans seek merely to uphold statutory safeguards needed to validate the results’ credibility.

Republicans need to rethink their arguments in many of the cases in which they are involved — quickly. Otherwise, they risk harming the fundamental principle of our democracy: that all eligible voters must be allowed to cast their ballots. If that happens, Americans will deservedly render the GOP a minority party for a long, long time.


At this juncture, what would surprise us? Words like ‘dithered’ ‘failed to act’ are now just part of his horrific legacy. The driver for T was of course the election, getting re-elected, and using terms like “did not want people to panic,” had entirely to do with the financial markets to ‘panic,’ was we know as his barometer for having a winning position for election.

I want this long nightmare of a Presidency to end. Shocking of course, like every other bit of it.

He lied about the coronavirus anyway.

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

On Feb. 7, during a taped interview with Bob Woodward, President Trump acknowledged that the coronavirus could be transmitted through the air, that it was very dangerous and that it would be difficult to contain.This is deadly stuff,” he told the investigative journalist.

You just breathe the air, and that’s how it’s passed,” the president warned.

Despite his apparent understanding of the severity of the disease and its method of transmission, over the next month, in five cities around the country, Mr. Trump held large indoor rallies, which were attended by thousands of his supporters.

Mr. Trump spent weeks insisting in public that the coronavirus was no worse than a seasonal flu. It would “disappear” when the seasons changed, he promised in late February. “We’re doing a great job,” he said in early March.

Why lie to the American people? Why — as the administration accuses the Chinese government of doing — lie to the world about the severity of what was declared a pandemic only days later?

I wanted to always play it down,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Woodward on March 19. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.

Mr. Trump and a great many of his supporters and political allies did play down the severity of the coronavirus and did criticize the public health measures deployed to prevent its spread. As a result, the coronavirus spread faster and sickened or killed more people in the United States than in any of its peer nations. If the United States had the same coronavirus fatality rate as Canada, more than 100,000 Americans could still be alive today.

Much of the responsibility for the fatal mishandling of the pandemic lies with the president. But with every public lie out of Mr. Trump’s mouth, or on his Twitter feed, how many members of his administration who knew better stayed silent?

The president has repeatedly tried to muzzle and sideline scientists and health officials who disagree with his sunny assessments, often replacing them with less qualified people willing to sing his praises.

So it was that the president’s coronavirus task force revised guidelines on testing for asymptomatic people, while the task force’s leading infectious disease doctor, Anthony Fauci, was having surgery. So it is that, in the pandemic’s seventh month, Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious disease outbreaks, is arguing that it’s not the government’s job to stamp out the coronavirus, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remain silent.

Mr. Trump’s lack of leadership almost certainly made the nation’s suffering greater, its death toll higher and its economic costs more severe in the long term. When the president dithered on testing and contact tracing, when he failed to make or execute a clear and effective plan for securing personal protective equipment, when he repeatedly belittled and dismissed mask mandates and other social distancing edicts, Mr. Trump knew the virus was deadly and airborne. He knew that millions of people could get sick, and many would die.

Furthermore, Mr. Woodward’s tapes make clear that members of the Trump administration failed to act — even behind the scenes — based on what they knew at the time.

Nearly 200,000 people in the United States have already died, and hundreds of thousands more have suffered grave illness — often followed by a slow, hard recovery and, in some cases, permanent disability. Tens of millions of people have lost their jobs, and millions are on the cusp of losing their homes. School systems and elder care networks are struggling to function. The economy is in tatters.

Imagine what this picture could look like today if the president had been honest with the American public on Feb. 7, calmly taken charge of the nation’s response to the pandemic and did his best to protect them.


Another hard hitting Opinion from Paul Krugman, economist - from Aug 7th. What the reality looks like vs what the numbers might be saying.

Seems like there are some rumblings about the CARES act, but the divide between parties is vast.

So let’s talk about that employment report.

One important thing to bear in mind about official monthly job statistics is that they’re based on surveys conducted during the second week of the month. That’s why I used scare quotes around “August”: What Friday’s report actually gave us was a snapshot of the state of the labor market around Aug. 12.

This may be important. Private data suggest a slowdown in job growth since late July. So the next employment report, which will be based on data collected this week — and will also be the last report before the election — will probably (not certainly) be weaker than the last.

In any case, that August report wasn’t great considering the context. In normal times a gain of 1.4 million jobs would be impressive, even if some of those jobs were a temporary blip associated with the census. But we’re still more than 11 million jobs down from where we were in February.

And the situation remains dire for the hardest-hit workers. The pandemic slump disproportionately hit workers in the leisure and hospitality sector — think restaurants — and employment in that sector is still down around 25 percent, while the unemployment rate for workers in the industry is still over 20 percent, more than four times what it was a year ago.

So the economy is still bypassing those who need a recovery most.

Yet most of the safety net that temporarily sustained the economic victims of the coronavirus has been torn down.

> The CARES Act, enacted in March, gave the unemployed an extra $600 a week in benefits. This supplement played a crucial role in limiting extreme hardship; poverty may even have gone down.

But the supplement ended on July 31, and all indications are that Republicans in the Senate will do nothing to restore aid before the election. President Trump’s attempt to implement a $300 per week supplement by executive action will fail to reach many and prove inadequate even for those who get it. Families may have scraped by for a few weeks on saved money, but things are about to get very hard for millions.

The bottom line here is that before you cite economic statistics, you want to think about what they mean for people and their lives. The data aren’t meaningless: A million jobs gained is better than a million jobs lost, and growing G.D.P. is better than shrinking G.D.P. But there is often a disconnect between the headline numbers and the reality of American life, and that is especially true right now.

The fact is that this economy just isn’t working for many Americans, who are facing hard times that — thanks to political decisions by Trump and his allies — are just getting harder.

Can you put under OPINIONS please - @Pet_Proletariat or @MissJava? Thanks!


‘We’re No. 28! And Dropping!’

A measure of social progress finds that the quality of life has dropped in America over the last decade, even as it has risen almost everywhere else.

This should be a wake-up call: New data suggest that the United States is one of just a few countries worldwide that is slipping backward.

The newest Social Progress Index, shared with me before its official release Thursday morning, finds that out of 163 countries assessed worldwide, the United States, Brazil and Hungary are the only ones in which people are worse off than when the index began in 2011. And the declines in Brazil and Hungary were smaller than America’s.

“The data paint an alarming picture of the state of our nation, and we hope it will be a call to action,” Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor and the chair of the advisory panel for the Social Progress Index, told me. “It’s like we’re a developing country.”

The index, inspired by research of Nobel-winning economists, collects 50 metrics of well-being — nutrition, safety, freedom, the environment, health, education and more — to measure quality of life. Norway comes out on top in the 2020 edition, followed by Denmark, Finland and New Zealand. South Sudan is at the bottom, with Chad, Central African Republic and Eritrea just behind.

The United States, despite its immense wealth, military power and cultural influence, ranks 28th — having slipped from 19th in 2011. The index now puts the United States behind significantly poorer countries, including Estonia, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece.

“We are no longer the country we like to think we are,” said Porter.

The United States ranks No. 1 in the world in quality of universities, but No. 91 in access to quality basic education. The U.S. leads the world in medical technology, yet we are No. 97 in access to quality health care.

The Social Progress Index finds that Americans have health statistics similar to those of people in Chile, Jordan and Albania, while kids in the United States get an education roughly on par with what children get in Uzbekistan and Mongolia. A majority of countries have lower homicide rates, and most other advanced countries have lower traffic fatality rates and better sanitation and internet access.

The United States has high levels of early marriage — most states still allow child marriage in some circumstances — and lags in sharing political power equally among all citizens. America ranks a shameful No. 100 in discrimination against minorities.

The data for the latest index predates Covid-19, which has had a disproportionate impact on the United States and seems likely to exacerbate the slide in America’s standing. One new study suggests that in the United States, symptoms of depression have risen threefold since the pandemic began — and poor mental health is associated with other risk factors for well-being.

Michael Green, the C.E.O. of the group that puts out the Social Progress Index, notes that the coronavirus will affect health, longevity and education, with the impact particularly large in both the United States and Brazil. The equity and inclusiveness measured by the index seem to help protect societies from the virus, he said.

“Societies that are inclusive, tolerant and better educated are better able to manage the pandemic,” Green said.

The decline of the United States over the last decade in this index — more than any country in the world — is a reminder that we Americans face structural problems that predate President Trump and that festered under leaders of both parties. Trump is a symptom of this larger malaise, and also a cause of its acceleration.

David G. Blanchflower, a Dartmouth economist, has new research showing that the share of Americans reporting in effect that every day is a bad mental health day has doubled over 25 years. “Rising distress and despair are largely American phenomenon not observed in other advanced countries,” Blanchflower told me.

This decline is deeply personal for me: As I’ve written, a quarter of the kids on my old No. 6 school bus in rural Oregon are now dead from drugs, alcohol and suicide — what are called “deaths of despair.” I lost one friend to a heroin overdose this spring and have had more friends incarcerated than I could possibly count; the problems are now self-replicating in the next generation because of the dysfunction in some homes.

You as taxpayers paid huge sums to imprison my old friends; the money would have been far better invested educating them, honing their job skills or treating their addictions.

That’s why this is an election like that of 1932. That was the year American voters decisively rejected Herbert Hoover’s passivity and gave Franklin Roosevelt an electoral mandate — including a flipped Senate — that laid the groundwork for the New Deal and the modern middle class. But first we need to acknowledge the reality that we are on the wrong track.

We Americans like to say “We’re No. 1.” But the new data suggest that we should be chanting, “We’re No. 28! And dropping!”

Let’s wake up, for we are no longer the country we think we are.


Must read

QAnon is a Nazi Cult, Rebranded

Gregory Stanton

A secret cabal is taking over the world. They kidnap children, slaughter, and eat them to gain power from their blood. They control high positions in government, banks, international finance, the news media, and the church. They want to disarm the police. They promote homosexuality and pedophilia. They plan to mongrelize the white race so it will lose its essential power.

Does this conspiracy theory sound familiar? It is. The same narrative has been repackaged by QAnon.

I have studied and worked to prevent genocide for forty years. Genocide Watch and the Alliance Against Genocide, the first international anti-genocide coalition, see such hate-filled conspiracy theories as early warning signs of deadly genocidal violence.

The plot, described above, was the conspiracy “revealed” in the most influential anti-Jewish pamphlet of all time. It was called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It was written by Russian anti-Jewish propagandists around 1902. It collected myths about a Jewish plot to take over the world that had existed for hundreds of years. Central to its mythology was the Blood Libel, which claimed that Jews kidnapped and slaughtered Christian children and drained their blood to mix in the dough for matzos consumed on Jewish holidays.

Do Not Forget

It’s been there all along. This is just the latest online incarnation. It’s disgraceful and beyond disgusting


Some of the ‘tricks’ that Barr maybe up to in the next couple of months. Barr is known for under serving (Read - lying) the truth and we can anticipate the release of the Durham Report and other news. This is a piece from Just Security writer Ryan Goodman and special counsel to Dept of Defense, as well as Joshua Geltzer - former deputy legal adviser to National Security Council. It was written in August.

Barr may try to spin his ‘investigation’ before the election. Don’t believe him.

August 1, 2020 at 4:00 a.m. PDT

One of William P. Barr’s weaknesses is a godsend for the rule of law: The attorney general is not completely effective at lying. Or at least close observers of Barr have learned over time how to spot his many tricks. Barr’s behavior in his prior career in government and in his current office reveals voluminous and specific examples in which he misled the public and Congress. Within hours, if not minutes, leading fact checkers documented several of Barr’s deceptions in his congressional testimony on Tuesday. And there’s every reason to suspect Barr will soon try again to mislead — this time regarding one of his most important initiatives to date, an investigation by his handpicked U.S. attorney, John Durham — in an effort to skew the 2020 elections.

The problem is that there are two types of lies that Barr is willing to employ. One can be detected quickly. The other often takes time to uncover, and by that point, Barr may already have succeeded in his goal.

Based on Barr’s track record, it’s important for the public to realize now that they can’t take Barr’s word on what Durham actually has found. The urgency of bracing people to disbelieve the attorney general increased dramatically on Tuesday, as Barr was asked whether he’d apply long-standing Justice Department policy not to announce politically sensitive new cases before an election by holding Durham’s findings until after Nov. 3. Barr’s answer was, for him, a rarity in its clarity: He said no.

Durham’s investigation has become Barr’s pet project. Durham’s main task is an investigation of the investigators who tried to understand and protect the United States against Russian election interference in 2016. We don’t know what Durham will conclude, but we’re confident in this: Barr will likely distort those conclusions in a way favorable to President Trump’s political ambitions. That goal seems to have driven Barr’s public anticipation of “developments” from Durham “before the end of the summer” — that is, in time to influence the November election.

Barr has a history of mischaracterizing and even lying about the results of investigations before their details are public. That’s what Barr did to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation. The attorney general released his own “distorted” and “misleading” summary while delaying the release of Mueller’s actual conclusions by weeks. Don’t just take our word for it; those are the words of the federal judge who excoriated Barr for his deceit. By the time Barr allowed the rest of the country to see Mueller’s actual conclusions — which were relentlessly damning for Trump — Barr’s mischaracterization of Mueller’s investigation as having exonerated the president had taken hold among key constituencies. And by the time the federal judge ruled on the matter, almost a year had passed. Far fewer Americans were even paying attention.

There were several other flat-out lies by Barr during the course of those events: He misrepresented the role that the Justice Department’s view that a sitting president can’t be indicted had played in how Mueller approached his work, claiming it hadn’t constrained Mueller’s conclusions when Mueller clearly said it had; he told Congress he was unaware that Mueller’s team was upset with his summary of their report, when in fact Mueller had conveyed his concern and frustration to Barr in writing; and he declared that the White House had “fully cooperated” with Mueller, when Trump refused to testify under oath, sit down for an interview or answer a whole set of questions.

Barr’s summary wrought such havoc inside Congress that it likely succeeded in sharply narrowing the articles of impeachment against Trump, according to a book released earlier this week by Norman Eisen, who served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the process.

That’s far different from Barr’s other lies that implode on impact. Consider a recent example. After meeting in person with U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey S. Berman and failing to coerce Berman’s resignation, Barr nonetheless announced publicly that Berman had stepped down. When Berman set the record straight that evening with a public statement that he had not in fact resigned, Barr was forced to regroup and, ultimately, name a different successor to Berman — the one mandated by law — before Berman then agreed to resign. The most remarkable part of the whole episode was Barr’s brazen and easily disprovable public lie, and how quickly it was exposed thanks to Berman.

Yet none of these past incidents seems as near and dear to Barr’s heart as what’s still to come: the conclusion of the Durham investigation. It’s an investigation no ordinary attorney general would have ordered in the first place. Criminally investigating the investigators without any apparent wrongdoing is a bizarre step to take, and the very issues being explored by Durham already have been investigated by the Justice Department’s inspector general, who found that the opening of the Russia investigation (code-named “Crossfire Hurricane”) was properly predicated, with no evidence it was influenced by political bias. Yet Barr has pressed ahead — hard — with demanding that Durham investigate the FBI and, apparently, even other components of the intelligence community for their counterintelligence work in 2016. In a wild step for an attorney general, Barr has reportedly personally traveled the world to urge foreign governments to cooperate with Durham.

There are signs that Barr has already enabled Durham’s unorthodox behavior, which could foreshadow his own efforts to distort the public’s understanding of whatever conclusions Durham will reach, whether those take the form of criminal charges, a written report or some combination. When the inspector general issued his much-anticipated report, Durham was in the midst of an ongoing criminal investigation — a situation in which a federal prosecutor should, according to Justice Department policy, refrain from commenting publicly. Yet Durham did the opposite: He released a public statement indicating that, even though he was still conducting his investigation, he disagreed with the inspector general’s conclusions. This was extraordinary, in addition to being a mid-investigation public commentary. It was also a public rebuke of the Justice Department’s inspector general by another department official, and one that, it turns out, was misleading about where exactly Durham and the inspector general differed.

But Barr’s spin works only if others take his word for it or imbue him with the credibility of an attorney general faithfully executing his oath of office. Whatever conclusions Durham actually reaches, Barr’s history indicates that he’ll make them sound better for Trump and worse for the counterintelligence work of America’s public servants. As The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips wrote about Barr’s most recent testimony, takeaway number one is: “He is all in as a partisan player.”

When it comes to spin, being forewarned is being forearmed: Don’t buy it. It’s essential that Congress, the media and the public refuse to accept what Barr says at face value. Wait till we see what Durham’s investigation actually concludes — then we can applaud or criticize those results as we all see fit, but at least we’ll elude the grasp of Barr’s distortions.

Joshua A. Geltzer, a former senior director for counterterrorism and a deputy legal adviser at the National Security Council, serves as executive director of Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection.

Ryan Goodman a former special counsel at the Department of Defense, is a law professor at New York University and co-editor-in-chief at Just Security.