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Category Archives: Trumpedation


September 23, 20226:32 PM CDTLast Updated 2 days ago

Reuters

Sept 23 (Reuters) – Some investors are backing out of Digital World Acquisition Corp’s (DWAC.O) plan to acquire former U.S. President Donald Trump’s social media firm Truth Social, the blank-check firm said on Friday.

Digital World said it had received termination notices from private investment in public equity (PIPE) investors ending nearly $139 million in investments out of the $1 billion commitment it had previously announced.

Investors, who signed the PIPE commitment about one year ago, are free to move their money after the Sept. 20, 2022 deadline if the deal has not completed.

Digital World did not disclose the investors that pulled out. Sources told Reuters Sabby Management, which had committed $100 million to the PIPE, is one of the investors who have terminated.

Sabby Management declined to comment.

More investors could pull out in the next few weeks, sources said, as they can terminate anytime after the deadline. Many are waiting for DWAC to propose more preferred terms to PIPE investors, sources added.

The deal between the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) and Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG), which owns Truth Social, has been on ice due to civil and criminal probes into the circumstances around the agreement.

TMTG did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The SPAC had been hoping the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which is reviewing Digital World’s disclosures on the deal, would have given its blessing by now.

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Heather Cox RichardsonAug 31

The big news until shortly before midnight tonight was that businesses do indeed seem to be coming home after the pandemic illustrated the dangers of stretched supply lines, the global minimum tax reduced the incentives to flee to other countries with lower taxes, and the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act spurred investment in technology.

Yesterday, Honda and LG Energy Solution announced they would spend $4.4 billion to construct a new battery plant in the U.S. to join the plants General Motors is building in Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee; the ones Ford is building in Kentucky and Tennessee; the one Toyota is building in North Carolina; and the one Stellantis is building in Indiana. The plants are part of the switch to electric vehicles.  According to auto industry reporter Neal E. Boudette of the New York Times, they represent “one of the most profound shifts the auto industry has experienced in its century-long history.”

Today, Kentucky governor Andy Beshear (D) announced that Kentucky has secured more than $8.5 billion for investment in the production of electric vehicle batteries, which should produce more than 8,000 jobs in the EV sector. “Kentuckians will literally be powering the future,” he said. 

Also today, First Solar, the largest solar panel maker in the U.S., announced that it would construct a new solar panel plant in the Southeast, investing up to $1 billion. It credited the Inflation Reduction Act with making solar construction attractive enough in the U.S. to build here rather than elsewhere. First Solar has also said it will upgrade and expand an existing plant in Ohio, spending $185 million.

Corning has announced a new manufacturing plant outside Phoenix, Arizona, to build fiber-optic cable to help supply the $42.5 billion high-speed internet infrastructure investment made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act. AT&T will also build a new fiber internet network in Arizona.

The CHIPS and Science Act is spurring investment in the manufacturing of chips in the U.S. Earlier this month, Micron announced a $40 billion investment in the next eight years, producing up to 40,000 new jobs. Qualcomm has also committed to investing $4.2 billion in chips from the New York facility of GlobalFoundries. Qualcomm says it intends to increase chip production in the U.S. by 50% over the next five years. In January, Intel announced it would invest $20 billion, and possibly as much as $100 billion, in a chip plant in Ohio.

This investment is part of a larger trend in which U.S. companies are bringing their operations back to the U.S. Last week, a report by the Reshoring Initiative noted that nearly 350,000 U.S. jobs have come home this year. The coronavirus pandemic, Russia’s war on Ukraine, and China’s instability were the push to bring jobs home, while the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act were the pull. Dion Rabouin notes in the Wall Street Journal that this reshoring will not necessarily translate to blue-collar jobs, as companies will likely increase automation to avoid higher labor costs. 

President Joe Biden’s record is unexpectedly strong going into the midterms, and he is directly challenging Republicans on the issues they formerly considered their own. Today, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, he challenged the Republicans on their claim to be the party of law and order, calling out their recent demands to “defund” the FBI and saying he wants to increase funding for law enforcement to enable it to have more social workers, mental health care specialists, and so on. 

He noted that law enforcement officers want a ban on assault weapons and that he would work to pass one like that of 1994. When that law expired in 2004, mass shootings in the U.S. tripled.  

Then the president took on MAGA Republicans: “A safer America requires all of us to uphold the rule of law, not the rule of any one party or any one person.” He addressed Senator Lindsey Graham’s comment yesterday about how there would be violence if the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted Trump. “Let’s be clear,” Biden said, “You hear some of my friends in the other team talking about political violence and how it’s necessary.” But violence is never appropriate, he said. “Never. Period. Never, never, never. No one should be encouraged to use political violence. None whatsoever.”

To audience applause, he called out those who supported the January 6 attack on the Capitol: “Don’t tell me you support law enforcement if you won’t condemn what happened on the 6th…. For God’s sake, whose side are you on?… You can’t be pro-law enforcement and pro-insurrection. You can’t be a party of law and order and call the people who attacked the police on January 6th ‘patriots.’ You can’t do it.”

While Biden is consolidating and pushing the Democrats’ worldview, the Republicans are in disarray. The revelation that former president Trump moved classified intelligence to the Trump Organization’s property at Mar-a-Lago has kept some of them sidelined, as they didn’t want to talk about the issue, and has forced others to try to justify an unprecedented breach of national security. Republican candidates for elected office who are not in deep red districts have been taking references to Trump (and to abortion restrictions) off their websites. 

The deadly seriousness of what he has done is clear in part from the former president’s own behavior over it. Yesterday, he demanded to be made president or to have a do-over of the 2020 election; today, after constant reposting of conspiracy theories and defenses on his ailing Truth Social, he wrote: “Why are people so mean?”

The reason for his fear turned up tonight in a Department of Justice filing in response to his demand for the appointment of a special master to review the documents, and for the return of several of them to him. His requests gave the DOJ an opening to correct the record that he and his allies have been muddying.

This document replaced the economic news as today’s big story. The DOJ laid out the timeline behind the attempt of the U.S. government to recover the materials Trump took. First, officials from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) recognized that materials were missing and tried to get Trump to return them voluntarily. When he finally handed over 15 boxes, the officials recognized that some of the materials were “highly classified” and told the Department of Justice. 

Trump delayed the FBI examination of the boxes, but when officials got into them, they recognized their haphazard storage threatened national security. They got evidence of more records at Mar-a-Lago, for which they obtained a grand jury subpoena. Trump’s representatives handed over a few more documents, and a lawyer certified that that was it—they had done a diligent search and now could confirm that there were no more documents left. They said there were no materials stored anywhere but a storeroom, but they refused to let agents look inside the boxes there.

It was a lie both that there were no more documents, and that materials were contained in the storeroom. The FBI learned there were still more documents, got a search warrant, and on August 8 seized from at least two locations 33 more boxes with more than 100 classified records—twice as many classified documents as Trump and his representatives had handed over under the subpoena.

The U.S. government spelled out that “those records do not belong to him”; they belong to the United States. It said that Trump never asserted that the records had been declassified or asserted any claim of executive privilege, and Trump’s representatives indicated they thought the documents were classified. It made a strong case that the former president and his lawyer obstructed the search for the documents. 

Even more chilling than the words of the filing was the exhibit attached: a photo of SECRET, TOP SECRET, and SECRET/SCI files recovered from a container, spread out on a carpeted floor next to a banker’s box containing framed TIME magazine covers. 

Trump has added Chris Kise, the former solicitor general of Florida, to his legal team. Although the Republican National Committee has been paying the former president’s legal bills since he left office, it will not pay the legal fees he racks up over this issue.

Notes:

Kyle Cheney @kyledcheneyNEWS: DOJ’s new filing includes. photo of the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8. storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.usco…

Image

August 31st 20226,360 Retweets18,752 Likes

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Brian Tyler Cohen @briantylercohenSources: Corning: axios.com/2022/08/30/fib…LG/Honda:cnn.com/2022/08/29/bus…Micron:cnbc.com/2022/08/09/mic…Qualcomm:reuters.com/technology/qua…Intel:Intel to invest up to $100 billion in Ohio chip plantsAn initial $20 billion investment – the largest in Ohio’s history – on a 1,000-acre site in New Albany will generate 3,000 jobs, Gelsinger said.cnbc.comAugust 30th 2022116 Retweets370 Likes

Governor Andy Beshear @GovAndyBeshearKentucky has secured the spot as the top electric vehicle battery producer in the United States. In the past few months, we’ve announced more than $8.5 billion in investment and more than 8,000 jobs in the EV sector. Kentuckians will literally be powering the future. August 30th 2022120 Retweets755 Likes

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/08/30/first-solar-to-build-new-panel-factory-following-inflation-reduction-act.html

https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/29/business/honda-lg-electric-vehicles/index.html

https://www.axios.com/2022/08/30/fiber-optic-cable-corning-factory-broadband-att

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/08/09/micron-to-invest-40-billion-in-us-chip-manufacturing.html

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/01/21/intel-plans-20-billion-chip-manufacturing-site-in-ohio.html

https://www.reuters.com/technology/qualcomm-globalfoundries-sign-pact-double-chip-manufacturing-2022-08-08/

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-companies-on-pace-to-bring-home-record-number-of-overseas-jobs-11660968061

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2022/08/30/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-safer-america-plan/

https://www.politico.com/news/2022/08/30/trump-forces-republicans-off-script-again-00054121

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/08/30/republicans-abortion-trump-online/

https://www.politico.com/news/2022/08/30/trump-florida-solicitor-general-mar-a-lago-probe-00054219

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The uproar over changes in the IRS with increased funding and arming some agents is overblown and driven primarily by the GOP. Let’s look at a bit of history, first most people have a poor image of the IRS because of misinformation and a poor contact with the agency. The job of that agency is to ensure the proper collection of taxes (which are used to run the country). The “horror” stories are in part true, but many are self-inflicted by the people who have had poor to no correct information on filing taxes. The agency has been underfunded for years and that lack of funding precludes the ability to have enough workers to do the job. The paucity of Workers extends time to audit and process tax forms, look carefully at bad actors looking to “cheat” the government (this means more taxes on you and me). The well-off have always pushed the idea that the government is after you, the average taxpayer in pursuit of your support against the agency, this is also why certain laws are in force that allow big businesses and big money donors to donate to their favorite candidates for high elected offices that enact the laws that prevent IRS expansion and limit their power to pursue tax cheats many of which are the same people we elect time after time. The political parties are quite good at making another agency the scapegoat for their purposes while at the same creating divisions between people (taxpayers) much like the events that preceded the “war between the states”. I have attached a brief history of the IRS; it is worth noting that this is a history that can be explored more, and I recommend it.

1862 – President Lincoln signed into law a revenue-raising measure to help pay for Civil War expenses. The measure created a Commissioner of Internal Revenue and the nation’s first income tax. It levied a 3 percent tax on incomes between $600 and $10,000 and a 5 percent tax on incomes of more than $10,000.

1867 – Heeding public opposition to the income tax, Congress cut the tax rate. From 1868 until 1913, 90 percent of all revenue came from taxes on liquor, beer, wine and tobacco.

1872 – Income tax repealed.

1894 – The Wilson Tariff Act revived the income tax and an income tax division within the Bureau of Internal Revenue was created.

1895 – Supreme Court ruled the new income tax unconstitutional on the grounds that it was a direct tax and not apportioned among the states on the basis of population. The income tax division was disbanded.

1909 – President Taft recommended Congress propose a constitutional amendment that would give the government the power to tax incomes without apportioning the burden among the states in line with population. Congress also levied a 1 percent tax on net corporate incomes of more than $5,000.

1913 – As the threat of war loomed, Wyoming became the 36th and last state needed to ratify the 16th Amendment. The amendment stated, “Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” Later, Congress adopted a 1 percent tax on net personal income of more than $3,000 with a surtax of 6 percent on incomes of more than $500,000. It also repealed the 1909 corporate income tax. The first Form 1040 was introduced.

1918 – The Revenue Act of 1918 raised even greater sums for the World War I effort. It codified all existing tax laws and imposed a progressive income-tax rate structure of up to 77 percent.

1919 – The states ratified the 18th Amendment, barring the manufacture, sale or transport of intoxicating beverages. Congress passed the Volstead Act, which gave the Commissioner of Internal Revenue the primary responsibility for enforcement of Prohibition. Eleven years later, the Department of Justice assumed primary prohibition enforcement duties.

1931 – The IRS Intelligence Unit used an undercover agent to gather evidence against gangster Al Capone. Capone was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years.

1933 – Prohibition repealed. IRS again assumed responsibility for alcohol taxation the following year and for administering the National Firearms Act. Later, tobacco tax enforcement was added.

1942 – The Revenue Act of 1942, hailed by President Roosevelt as “the greatest tax bill in American history,” passed Congress. It increased taxes and the number of Americans subject to the income tax. It also created deductions for medical and investment expenses.

1943 – Congress passed the Current Tax Payment Act, which required employers to withhold taxes from employees’ wages and remit them quarterly.

1944 – Congress passed the Individual Income Tax Act, which created the standard deductions on Form 1040.

1952 – President Truman proposed his Reorganization Plan No. 1, which replaced the patronage system at the IRS with a career civil service system. It also decentralized service to taxpayers and sought to restore public confidence in the agency.

1953 – President Eisenhower endorsed Truman’s reorganization plan and changed the name of the agency from the Bureau of Internal Revenue to the Internal Revenue Service.

1961 – The Computer Age began at IRS with the dedication of the National Computer Center at Martinsburg, W.Va.

1954 – The filing deadline for individual tax returns changed from March 15 to April 15.

1965 – IRS instituted its first toll-free telephone site.

1972 – The Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division separated from the IRS to become the independent Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

1974 – Congress passed the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act, which gave regulatory responsibilities for employee benefit plans to the IRS.

1986 – Limited electronic filing began. President Reagan signed the Tax Reform Act, the most significant piece of tax legislation in 30 years. It contained 300 provisions and took three years to implement. The Act codified the federal tax laws for the third time since the Revenue Act of 1918.

1992 – Taxpayers who owed money were allowed to file returns electronically.

1998 – Congress passed the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act, which expanded taxpayer rights and called for reorganizing the agency into four operating divisions aligned according to taxpayer needs.

2000 – IRS enacted reforms, ending its geographic-based structure and instituting four major operating divisions: Wage and Investment, Small Business/Self-Employed, Large and Mid-Size Business and Tax Exempt and Government Entities. It was the most sweeping change at the IRS since the 1953 reorganization.

2001  IRS administered a mid-year tax refund program to provide advance payments of a tax rate reduction.

2003 – IRS administered another mid-year refund program, this time providing an advance payment of an increase in the Child Tax Credit. Electronic filing reached a new high – 52.9 million tax returns, more than 40 percent of all individual returns.

Now the current GOP is raging about the recent bills passed by the house and signed by President Biden. In case you’ve not paid attention or read any of this bill, it provides funding to increase the hiring of IRS personnel and upgrading equipment among other things. The GOP has latched onto the fabricated idea that these taxes will hit the poorest the hardest, this tale has been told before and was untrue then and is untrue now. The tax relief bill put in effect by the former guy took away most of the deductions used by many lower income folks and homeowners while giving tax breaks to the wealthy and big companies (which includes many of our congressional members and their big money backers) with the absurd idea that these tax breaks would allow these companies to give more to the workers, instead these companies took the money and did stock buybacks which increased stock prices while paying stock dividends. How much stock do most people who are at the lower incomes have? The new bill does not increase taxes on the lower income people and the additional IRS personnel will be able to fully examine and find tax cheats while pushing through the simpler returns of the less than wealthy. One thing to know about tax returns: if the numbers work then you are not likely to audited and audits ARE RANDOM unless there is a glaring mistake! Please Do not be pulled into the GOP’s circle of lies.

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There is and will be for a long-time debate on the fate of Afghani’s who assisted the American forces in Afghanistan. The country has reverted to pre-Russian state where the religious right (Taliban) has assumed control. The article below explains exactly what happened and where the blame (if any) lies.MA

Trump’s deal with the Taliban, explained

Analysis by Amber Phillips

Staff writer

August 26, 2021 at 7:27 p.m. EDT

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, left, and Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s top political leader, shake hands in February 2020 as a peace deal is signed. (Hussein Sayed/AP)

This has been updated with the latest.

With the withdrawal from Afghanistan turning deadly for U.S. troops, President Biden faces new criticism for a situation that he argues presents him few options.

The deal that President Donald Trump cut last year with the Taliban forced Biden to choose between a withdrawal now or an escalation of the war, Biden said Thursday, as he addressed the nation after at least 13 members of the U.S. military were killed in Kabul.

He chose to withdraw.

“I had only one alternative,” he said, “to send thousands more troops back into Afghanistan to fight a war that we had already won, relative to the reason why we went in the first place.”

When the deal was cut in Doha, Qatar, in February 2020, it wasn’t treated as huge news, because the war itself wasn’t big news. So many people don’t actually know its contents.

Here is what’s in it and how it has been perceived.

Biden: ‘These ISIS terrorists will not win’

0:53

President Biden said he had asked for plans to strike ISIS-K assets in light of the Aug. 26 attacks in Kabul that killed civilians and 13 U.S. service members. (Video: The Washington Post)

Why Trump cut the deal

When Trump came into office, he was pretty transparent — he just wanted out of Afghanistan. “Trump had no real sense of what was at stake in the war or why to stay,” writes Georgetown professor Paul Miller in a digestible history of the 20-year war.

So Trump took a swing at something his predecessors hadn’t: a full-bore effort to strike a deal with the Taliban. It took nine rounds of talks over 18 months. At one point, Trump secretly invited the Taliban to the presidential retreat at Camp David on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But he shut that down — and on Twitter threatened to shut down all talks — after an American service member was killed and there was bipartisan backlash over the invitation.

An image of Trump’s 2019 tweets on the Taliban deal. (Factba.se)

Talks continued in Doha, and in February 2020, Trump announced that there was a deal. The basic contours: The United States was to get out of Afghanistan in 14 months and, in exchange, the Taliban agreed not to let Afghanistan become a haven for terrorists and to stop attacking U.S. service members.

The Taliban also agreed to start peace talks with the Afghan government and consider a cease-fire with the government. (The Taliban had been killing Afghan forces throughout this, attempting to use the violence as leverage in negotiations, U.S. intelligence officials believed.)

The deal laid out an explicit timetable for the United States and NATO to pull out their forces: In the first 100 days or so, they would reduce troops from 14,000 to 8,600 and leave five military bases. Over the next nine months, they would vacate all the rest. “The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will complete withdrawal of all remaining forces from Afghanistan within the remaining nine and a half (9.5) months,” the deal reads. “The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will withdraw all their forces from remaining bases.”

The United States would release 5,000 Taliban prisoners; the Taliban would release 1,000 of its prisoners.

The Taliban’s end of the deal asked a lot from the group — too much to be realistic, critics said. In addition to making sure nowhere in the country harbored a terrorist cell, the Taliban agreed to be responsible for any individual who might want to attack the United States from Afghanistan, including new immigrants to the country.

The Taliban “will send a clear message that those who pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies have no place in Afghanistan,” the deal read. And the Taliban agreed to “prevent any group or individual in Afghanistan from threatening the security of the United States and its allies, and will prevent them from recruiting, training, and fundraising and will not host them in accordance with the commitments in this agreement.”

This deal required taking the Taliban’s promises on faith.

“I really believe the Taliban wants to do something to show that we’re not all wasting time,” Trump said as he announced the agreement. He added as an aside: “If bad things happen, we’ll go back with a force like no one’s ever seen.”

The deal was a sweet one for the Taliban, critics say

Members of the Taliban delegation in Doha in February 2020 for peace talks with the United States. (Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images)

One gaping problem, say scholars (including some from the Trump administration): The peace agreement came with no enforcement mechanism for the Taliban to keep its word.

The Taliban basically had to sign a pledge saying it wouldn’t harbor terrorists. Nowhere did the Taliban have to — nor did it choose to — denounce al-Qaeda, the terrorist group that launched the 9/11 attacks from Afghanistan, Miller writes.

The biggest tangible commitment from the Taliban looked like this: For seven days before the deal was signed, its leaders significantly reduced their attacks on Afghan forces to show they were capable of controlling the group across the country. But the deal didn’t require that the Taliban stop its attacks against Afghan security forces.

Overall, it was a pretty good deal for the Taliban, critics said. “Trump all but assured the future course of events would reflect the Taliban’s interests far more than the United States,” Miller writes. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s second national security adviser, has recently called it “a surrender agreement with the Taliban.” Another member of Trump’s National Security Council said it was “a very weak agreement.”

As The Fix’s Aaron Blake notes, former Trump officials are suddenly and conspicuously scrambling to distance themselves from that deal.

Cracks in the deal emerge almost immediately

A few months after the agreement was signed, there was plenty of evidence that the Taliban wasn’t as sincere as it appeared about peace. The United Nations said it had evidence that the Taliban and al-Qaeda still had ties. U.S. intelligence warned that al-Qaeda was “integrated” into the Taliban. The Taliban launched dozens of attacks in Afghanistan, ramping up its violence.

“The Taliban views the negotiations as a necessary step to ensure the removal of U.S. and other foreign troops under the U.S.-Taliban agreement, but the Taliban likely does not perceive that it has any obligation to make substantive concessions or compromises,” a U.S. inspector general report read.

It was all enough that when Biden came into office, U.S. officials questioned whether the Taliban was breaking its side of the deal.

But Trump chose to continue taking U.S. troops home

And he had bipartisan support for it.

It’s important to remember that by the time Trump came into office, the public debate about whether to stay in Afghanistan was largely over. Most Americans were done with the war. Even the military realized it couldn’t effect much more change on the current course. “The only way forward was going to be a political agreement,” Mark T. Esper, Trump’s former defense secretary, said recently. “Not a military solution.”

To a number of those who were paying attention, the whole deal felt like a naked attempt to just get out of Afghanistan. It was a campaign promise of Trump’s to be the president who finally ended America’s longest war. It would be something no other president had been able to accomplish.

Before the peace talks really got going, Trump had already started withdrawing thousands of troops, and he fired his defense secretary, Esper, after he wrote a memo disagreeing. (Esper later said that Trump’s withdrawing too many troops too soon contributed to what we see now in Afghanistan.)

Biden criticizes the deal but hews to it

When Biden took over, there were just 3,500 U.S. troops left in the country (from a high of 100,000 during the Obama years). He pushed back the date of the planned withdrawal from May 1 to four months later, but he kept the deal intact. U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

“It’s time to end America’s longest war,” he said.

The Taliban didn’t even wait for the Americans to completely leave before it took over the country in a matter of days. As the world watched Kabul fall, Biden has defended his decision not to stay and fight by saying Trump’s deal required him to either maintain the withdrawal or escalate fighting.

“When I became president, I faced a choice — follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict,” he said in a statement.

On Thursday, he credited the deal for the fact that the Taliban hadn’t attacked Americans during the withdrawal. “The commitment was made by President Trump: I will be out May 1st. In the meantime, you agree not to attack any Americans. That is the deal. That’s why no American was attacked.”

Critics have contended that’s a false choice, noting how many other international agreements of Trump’s that Biden has eschewed or rewritten. But given that Biden shared the goal to withdraw, it left him little leverage to renegotiate with the Taliban.

For both presidents, the peace deal with the Taliban presented a good opportunity to pursue their own agendas with regard to America’s longest war. And neither has seemed particularly regretful about doing so.

“Leaving having proposed a peace effort and then blaming the Afghans for not reaching peace is as good a cover for leaving as any,” said Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


 

Analysis by Amber Phillips 

Staff writer 

August 26, 2021 at 7:27 p.m. EDT 

This has been updated with the latest. 

With the withdrawal from Afghanistan turning deadly for U.S. troops, President Biden faces new criticism for a situation that he argues presents him few options. 

The deal that President Donald Trump cut last year with the Taliban forced Biden to choose between a withdrawal now or an escalation of the war, Biden said Thursday, as he addressed the nation after at least 13 members of the U.S. military were killed in Kabul. 

He chose to withdraw. 

“I had only one alternative,” he said, “to send thousands more troops back into Afghanistan to fight a war that we had already won, relative to the reason why we went in the first place.” 

When the deal was cut in Doha, Qatar, in February 2020, it wasn’t treated as huge news, because the war itself wasn’t big news. So many people don’t actually know its contents. 

Here is what’s in it and how it has been perceived.: ‘These ISIS terrorists will not win’ 

0:5 

Why Trump cut the deal 

When Trump came into office, he was pretty transparent — he just wanted out of Afghanistan. “Trump had no real sense of what was at stake in the war or why to stay,” writes Georgetown professor Paul Miller in a digestible history of the 20-year war

So Trump took a swing at something his predecessors hadn’t: a full-bore effort to strike a deal with the Taliban. It took nine rounds of talks over 18 months. At one point, Trump secretly invited the Taliban to the presidential retreat at Camp David on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But he shut that down — and on Twitter threatened to shut down all talks — after an American service member was killed and there was bipartisan backlash over the invitation. 

Talks continued in Doha, and in February 2020, Trump announced that there was a deal. The basic contours: The United States was to get out of Afghanistan in 14 months and, in exchange, the Taliban agreed not to let Afghanistan become a haven for terrorists and to stop attacking U.S. service members. 

The Taliban also agreed to start peace talks with the Afghan government and consider a cease-fire with the government. (The Taliban had been killing Afghan forces throughout this, attempting to use the violence as leverage in negotiations, U.S. intelligence officials believed.) 

The deal laid out an explicit timetable for the United States and NATO to pull out their forces: In the first 100 days or so, they would reduce troops from 14,000 to 8,600 and leave five military bases. Over the next nine months, they would vacate all the rest. “The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will complete withdrawal of all remaining forces from Afghanistan within the remaining nine and a half (9.5) months,” the deal reads. “The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will withdraw all their forces from remaining bases.” 

The United States would release 5,000 Taliban prisoners; the Taliban would release 1,000 of its prisoners. 

The Taliban’s end of the deal asked a lot from the group — too much to be realistic, critics said. In addition to making sure nowhere in the country harbored a terrorist cell, the Taliban agreed to be responsible for any individual who might want to attack the United States from Afghanistan, including new immigrants to the country. 

The Taliban “will send a clear message that those who pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies have no place in Afghanistan,” the deal read. And the Taliban agreed to “prevent any group or individual in Afghanistan from threatening the security of the United States and its allies, and will prevent them from recruiting, training, and fundraising and will not host them in accordance with the commitments in this agreement.” 

This deal required taking the Taliban’s promises on faith. 

“I really believe the Taliban wants to do something to show that we’re not all wasting time,” Trump said as he announced the agreement. He added as an aside: “If bad things happen, we’ll go back with a force like no one’s ever seen.” 

One gaping problem, say scholars (including some from the Trump administration): The peace agreement came with no enforcement mechanism for the Taliban to keep its word. 

The Taliban basically had to sign a pledge saying it wouldn’t harbor terrorists. Nowhere did the Taliban have to — nor did it choose to — denounce al-Qaeda, the terrorist group that launched the 9/11 attacks from Afghanistan, Miller writes. 

The biggest tangible commitment from the Taliban looked like this: For seven days before the deal was signed, its leaders significantly reduced their attacks on Afghan forces to show they were capable of controlling the group across the country. But the deal didn’t require that the Taliban stop its attacks against Afghan security forces. 

Overall, it was a pretty good deal for the Taliban, critics said. “Trump all but assured the future course of events would reflect the Taliban’s interests far more than the United States,” Miller writes. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s second national security adviser, has recently called it “a surrender agreement with the Taliban.” Another member of Trump’s National Security Council said it was “a very weak agreement.” 

As The Fix’s Aaron Blake notes, former Trump officials are suddenly and conspicuously scrambling to distance themselves from that deal. 

Cracks in the deal emerge almost immediately 

A few months after the agreement was signed, there was plenty of evidence that the Taliban wasn’t as sincere as it appeared about peace. The United Nations said it had evidence that the Taliban and al-Qaeda still had ties. U.S. intelligence warned that al-Qaeda was “integrated” into the Taliban. The Taliban launched dozens of attacks in Afghanistan, ramping up its violence. 

“The Taliban views the negotiations as a necessary step to ensure the removal of U.S. and other foreign troops under the U.S.-Taliban agreement, but the Taliban likely does not perceive that it has any obligation to make substantive concessions or compromises,” a U.S. inspector general report read. 

It was all enough that when Biden came into office, U.S. officials questioned whether the Taliban was breaking its side of the deal. 

But Trump chose to continue taking U.S. troops home 

And he had bipartisan support for it. 

It’s important to remember that by the time Trump came into office, the public debate about whether to stay in Afghanistan was largely over. Most Americans were done with the war. Even the military realized it couldn’t effect much more change on the current course. “The only way forward was going to be a political agreement,” Mark T. Esper, Trump’s former defense secretary, said recently. “Not a military solution.” 

To a number of those who were paying attention, the whole deal felt like a naked attempt to just get out of Afghanistan. It was a campaign promise of Trump’s to be the president who finally ended America’s longest war. It would be something no other president had been able to accomplish. 

Before the peace talks really got going, Trump had already started withdrawing thousands of troops, and he fired his defense secretary, Esper, after he wrote a memo disagreeing. (Esper later said that Trump’s withdrawing too many troops too soon contributed to what we see now in Afghanistan.) 

Biden criticizes the deal but hews to it 

When Biden took over, there were just 3,500 U.S. troops left in the country (from a high of 100,000 during the Obama years). He pushed back the date of the planned withdrawal from May 1 to four months later, but he kept the deal intact. U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. 

“It’s time to end America’s longest war,” he said. 

The Taliban didn’t even wait for the Americans to completely leave before it took over the country in a matter of days. As the world watched Kabul fall, Biden has defended his decision not to stay and fight by saying Trump’s deal required him to either maintain the withdrawal or escalate fighting. 

“When I became president, I faced a choice — follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict,” he said in a statement. 

On Thursday, he credited the deal for the fact that the Taliban hadn’t attacked Americans during the withdrawal. “The commitment was made by President Trump: I will be out May 1st. In the meantime, you agree not to attack any Americans. That is the deal. That’s why no American was attacked.” 

Critics have contended that’s a false choice, noting how many other international agreements of Trump’s that Biden has eschewed or rewritten. But given that Biden shared the goal to withdraw, it left him little leverage to renegotiate with the Taliban. 

For both presidents, the peace deal with the Taliban presented a good opportunity to pursue their own agendas with regard to America’s longest war. And neither has seemed particularly regretful about doing so. 

“Leaving having proposed a peace effort and then blaming the Afghans for not reaching peace is as good a cover for leaving as any,” said Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

By Amber Phillips 

Amber Phillips explains and analyzes politics and authors The 5-Minute Fix newsletter, a quick analysis of the day’s biggest political news.  Twitter 

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Heather Cox RichardsonAug 4

I have spent the day rereading the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the news of the day has heightened its relevance.

During the Trump administration, after an extensive investigation, the Republican-dominated Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that “the Russian government engaged in an aggressive, multifaceted effort to influence, or attempt to influence, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election…by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin.” 

But that effort was not just about the election. It was “part of a broader, sophisticated, and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society…a vastly more complex and strategic assault on the United States than was initially understood…the latest installment in an increasingly brazen interference by the Kremlin on the citizens and democratic institutions of the United States.” It was “a sustained campaign of information warfare against the United States aimed at influencing how this nation’s citizens think about themselves, their government, and their fellow Americans.”

That effort is not limited to foreign nationals. This week, Alex Jones, a purveyor of conspiracy theories and false information on his InfoWars network—the tagline is “There’s a War on For Your Mind!”—is part of a civil trial to determine damages in his defamation of the parents of one of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre in which 26 people, 20 of them small children, were murdered.

Jones claimed that the massacre wasn’t real, and his listeners harassed the grieving families. A number of families sued him. In the case currently in the news, Jones refused for years to comply with orders to hand over documents and evidence, so finally, in September, District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of Travis County, Texas, issued a default judgment holding him responsible for all damages. Since the judge has repeatedly had to reprimand Jones for lying under oath during this trial, it seems that Jones intended simply to continue spinning a false story of his finances, his business practices, and his actions. 

The construction of a world based on lies is a key component of authoritarians’ takeover of democratic societies. George Orwell’s 1984 explored a world in which those in power use language to replace reality, shaping the past and people’s daily experiences to cement their control. They are constantly reconstructing the past to justify their actions in the present. In Orwell’s dystopian fantasy, Winston Smith’s job is to rewrite history for the Ministry of Truth to reflect the changing interests of a mysterious cult leader, Big Brother, who wants power for its own sake and enforces loyalty through The Party’s propaganda and destruction of those who do not conform. 

Political philosopher Hannah Arendt went further, saying that the lies of an authoritarian were designed not to persuade people, but to organize them into a mass movement. Followers would “believe everything and nothing,” Arendt wrote, “think that everything was possible and that nothing was true.” “The ideal subject” for such a dictator, Arendt wrote, was not those who were committed to an ideology, but rather “people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction…and the distinction between true and false…no longer exist.”

It has been a source of frustration to those eager to return our public debates to ones rooted in reality that lies that have built a certain right-wing personality cannot be punctured because of the constant sowing of confusion around them. Part of why the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has been so effective is that it has carefully built a story out of verifiable facts. Because House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) withdrew the pro-Trump Republicans from the committee, we have not had to deal with the muddying of the water by people like Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), who specializes in bullying and hectoring to get sound bites that later turn up in on right-wing channels in a narrative that mischaracterizes what actually happened.

But today something happened that makes puncturing the bubble of disinformation personal. In the damages trial, the lawyer for the Sandy Hook parents, Mark Bankston, revealed that Jones’s attorney accidentally shared a digital copy of two years’ worth of the texts and emails on Jones’s phone and, when alerted to the error, didn’t declare it privileged. Thus Bankston is reviewing the material and has said that Jones lied under oath. This material includes both texts and financial reports that Jones apparently said didn’t exist.

This is a big deal for the trial, of course—perjury is a crime—and it is a bigger deal for those who have believed InfoWars, since it reveals how profitable the lies have been. Bankston revealed that for all of Jones’s claims of low income, in 2018 InfoWars made between $100,000 and $200,000 a day, and some days they made $800,000. But there is more. People calculating the math will note that if indeed there are two years of records on that phone, the messages will include the weeks around the events of January 6, 2021. 

Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng of Rolling Stone report that the January 6th committee will request the text messages and emails, which should cover the period around January 6. Jones, who has already spoken with the committee, played a role in the events of that day, whipping up supporters and speaking at a rally on January 5. He is also close to Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, who appeared often on Jones’s InfoWars show and provided Jones’s security. When he testified before the committee, Jones invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 100 times.

The January 6 insurrection relied on the Big Lie that Donald Trump had won the 2020 election, a lie that has dramatically destabilized our country. Republicans have only deepened their commitment to that lie since January 6. After yesterday’s Republican primaries, in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, all key states for 2024, election deniers have clinched the Republican nomination for secretary of state—the person in charge of elections—or the governor who would appoint that officer. 

In Arizona, Republican candidate for governor Kari Lake claimed there was fraud in her election, without evidence and even before the votes had been counted. “I’m gonna go supernova radioactive,” she told supporters. “We’re not gonna let them steal an election.” (Lake’s election is still unresolved as ballots are being counted.) 

If indeed Jones’s phone turns out to have key texts that go to the January 6 committee, it might provide more facts that will help to diminish the Big Lie. Tonight another piece of information about that lie came from Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater, who reported in the New York Times that John Eastman, the lawyer who produced the memo explaining the plan to have then–vice president Mike Pence overturn the 2020 presidential election, told Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani that they must continue to fight even after January 6, suggesting they contest Georgia’s election of Jon Ossoff and the Reverend Raphael Warnock to the Senate in the hope that those races might yield the evidence of voter fraud that until then they hadn’t found. “A lot of us have now staked our reputations on the claims of election fraud, and this would be a way to gather proof,” he wrote.

Eastman also asked Giuliani to help him collect a $270,000 fee from the Trump campaign for his work on overturning the election, and he implied that the effort could be ongoing. 

Way back in 2004, an advisor to President George W. Bush told journalist Ron Suskind that people like Suskind were in “the reality-based community”: they believed people could find solutions based on their observations and careful study of discernible reality. But, the aide continued, such a worldview was obsolete. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore…. We are an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

I wonder if reality is starting to reassert itself.

Notes:

emptywheel @emptywheelThis explains how the Sandy Hook team got Alex Jones’ phone. dan solomon @dansolomonAlso here is what happened with Alex Jones’s cell phone, according to Mark Bankston: the phone’s contents were put in a Dropbox folder the two parties had been to using to exchange materials roughly ten days agoAugust 3rd 2022113 Retweets379 Likes

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/gop-candidates-just-cant-stop-lying-about-elections-even-when-theyre-winning

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/08/03/alex-jones-sandy-hook-phone/

The Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence of the United States Senate on Russian Active Measures, Campaigns, and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election, Volume 2: Russia’s Use of Social Media, pp. 3-12. 

Joyce Alene @JoyceWhiteVanceAlex Jones took the 5th more than 100 times when he testified in front of the January 6 Cmte. Imagines what’s in his text messages, which are likely to land in the hands of committee investigators & DOJ promptly.August 3rd 20225,511 Retweets31,683 Likes

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Ivana Trump’s Burial Place May Have Landed Donald Trump These Huge Tax Breaks

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Kristyn Burtt

Mon, August 1, 2022 at 10:54 AM·2 min read

Ivana Trump’s death has taken a strange turn now that it’s been revealed that she’s buried by the first hole of Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The reason why she’s there suddenly makes sense because we all know Donald Trump loves a good deal, and he’s possibly getting one by creating a cemetery on his property.

Thanks to New Jersey’s unique tax code, “land dedicated to cemetery purposes owned by any person shall be exempt from all taxes, rates or assessments.” So by burying Ivana on the golf course, the former president can take advantage of that cemetery loophole — and make it look like he took care of his first wife at the end of her life. He’s always working an angle. The news is just enough to make any tax expert “skeptical” that someone would do that, but Dartmouth College’s Professor of Sociology Brooke Harrington looked into the situation.

She tweeted, “As a tax researcher, I was skeptical of rumors Trump buried his ex-wife in that sad little plot of dirt on his Bedminster, NJ golf course just for tax breaks. So I checked the NJ tax code & folks…it’s a trifecta of tax avoidance. Property, income & sales tax, all eliminated.” Harrington added a snapshot of Ivana’s grave with the outline of freshly dug dirt, white flowers, and a small, engraved marker with her name and date of birth and death — no headstone or sentimental note about her being a loving mother to three kids. It’s a stark comparison to her very glamorous Manhattan life in the 1980s.

The college professor also added some personal thoughts to her thread that vocalized what many people were thinking after seeing such a sad grave alone on a golf course. “I couldn’t believe her 3 kids–whom she apparently loved & who loved her–would allow their father to treat their mother like this,” she wrote. “Burying Ivana in little more than a pauper’s grave disgraces them all.” It seems like Ivana was outside the Trump inner circle after her divorce from Donald Trump — and they aren’t letting her forget that even in death.

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Heather Cox RichardsonJun 10

“Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

So Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), vice chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, damned her Republican colleagues at tonight’s first hearing on the January 6 insurrection.

And that was only a piece of what we heard tonight.

Calmly, carefully, convincingly, and in plain, easy to understand language, committee leaders Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Cheney placed former president Donald Trump at the center of an attempt to overturn our democracy. They were very clear that what happened on January 6 was an attempted coup, an “attempt to undermine the will of the people.” All Americans should remember, they reminded us, that on the morning of January 6, Donald Trump intended to remain president, despite his loss in the 2020 election and his constitutional obligation to step down in favor of President-elect Joseph R. Biden, as every president before him had done.

The committee established that there was no fraud in the 2020 election that would have changed the results of the election, showing testimony from Trump’s attorney general Bill Barr that the argument that Trump had won was “bullsh*t.” The committee presented testimony from other administration figures, including Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows and his daughter Ivanka, that Trump had been told repeatedly that he had lost. And yet, even with his inner circle telling him he had lost, and even with more than 60 failed lawsuits over the election, Trump continued to lie that he had been cheated of victory.

It was Trump who “summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame” for January 6, the committee says. Unable to accept his loss and determined to remain in power, Trump organized and deployed an attack on our democracy.

The committee established that the attack on the Capitol was not a random, spontaneous uprising. The rioters came at Trump’s invitation. While they had been muttering about the results since immediately after the election, it was Trump’s tweet of December 19, 2020, that lit the fuse. That night, the former president met with lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, former national security advisor Michael Flynn, and others at the White House. Shortly after the meeting, Trump tweeted that it was “[s]tatistically impossible to have lost the 2020 election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

Members of the extremist organizations the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers took Trump’s December 19th tweet as a call to arms. On December 20, they began to organize to go to Washington. These radical white supremacists had taken great pride in Trump’s shout-out in a presidential debate on September 29 that the Proud Boys should “stand back and stand by.” After that comment, membership in the Proud Boys had tripled.

Members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers testified that they went to Washington because Trump personally asked them to. “Trump has only asked me for two things,” one man testified: “my vote, and he asked me to come on January 6.”

The committee provided evidence that 250 to 300 Proud Boys arrived in Washington to stop the counting of the electoral votes. Nick Quested, a documentary filmmaker working to film the gang, testified that the riot was not spontaneous: the Proud Boys, who were allegedly in Washington to hear Trump speak, walked away from the rally at the Ellipse even before then-president Trump spoke, walking to the Capitol and checking out the police presence there. The Oath Keepers, too, were in Washington to stop the count and were expecting Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, enabling them to fight for him to remain president.

The groups quite deliberately fought their way into the Capitol in a planned and coordinated attack. Meanwhile, Trump continued to stoke the crowd’s fury at then–vice president Mike Pence for refusing to overturn the election in his role as the person in charge of counting the certified electoral votes. The rioters stormed the Capitol and went in search of Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), their calls for “Oh, Nancy,” echoing like the singsong chant from a horror movie. When he learned that the rioters were chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” the president said: “Maybe our supporters have the right idea.” He said that Pence “deserves it.”

Videos of the violence outside the Capitol further undercut the attempt of Republicans to downplay the rioters as “tourists.” Asked by Thompson if any one memory from January 6 stood out to her, Officer Caroline Edwards, who fought to protect the Capitol, said yes: the scene of “carnage” and “chaos.” It was like a war scene from the movies, she said, with officers bleeding on the ground, vomiting. She was slipping in people’s blood, catching people as they fell. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think… I would find myself in the middle of a battle,” she said. More than 100 police officers were wounded in the fighting, attacked with cudgels and bear spray, and at least nine people died then and immediately after.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was only one of many people caught up in the violence to contact Trump and beg him to call off the rioters. Clearly, Republicans as well as Democrats knew the mob were his people and that they would respond to his instructions. And yet, he refused. He did nothing to call out the military or the National Guard to defend the Capitol.

Ultimately, those requests came from Vice President Pence, in what appears so far to be an unexplained breakdown in the usual chain of command. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley testified that Pence was very clear that the military needed to turn up and fast to “put down this situation.” In contrast, Meadows talked to Milley not about protecting the Capitol, but to say “we have to kill the narrative that the vice president is making all the decisions.” Milley said he saw this as “politics, politics, politics.”

After the attempt to overturn the election and keep Trump in power had failed, according to Cheney, Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) and “multiple other Republican congressmen” tried to get Trump to pardon them for their participation. While they are now insisting they did nothing wrong, the requests for a presidential pardon show that they were aware that they were in trouble.

After the hearing, CNN congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles talked to Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), who is on the committee. “It’s actually a pretty simple story of a president who lost, who couldn’t stand losing, who cared nothing about the constitution and was determined to hold on to power and who incited a mob when everything else failed,” Schiff said.

The hearing provided some new information about the January 6 coup attempt that had not previously been publicly available. It also put what we already knew into a clear and compelling narrative using the words of Trump’s own advisors, including his daughter, and video previously unseen by the public. That story singled Trump out as the author of an attack on our democracy and isolated him even from those in his inner circle in a way that could weaken his influence in his party.

At the same time, the committee’s presentation was horrifying, reviving the pain of January 6 and clarifying it by bringing together the many different storylines that we have previously seen only in isolation. The timeline juxtaposed the mob violence with Trump’s own statements about how Pence was letting them down, for example. It showed Officer Edwards being knocked unconscious while Trump claimed the mob was made up of “peaceful people… great people,” and described “the love in the air, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Pundits had speculated before tonight’s televised hearing that it would not make compelling television, but they could not have been more wrong. The Fox News Channel, some of whose personalities were involved in the events surrounding January 6, refused to air the proceedings. Nonetheless, that channel inadvertently proved just how powerful the hearing was when it ran Tucker Carlson’s show without commercial breaks, apparently afraid that if anyone began to channel surf they might be drawn in by the hearing on other channels.

Veteran reporter Bob Woodward called the evening “historic.” Looking back at the 1954 hearings that destroyed the career of Senator Joe McCarthy by revealing that he was lying to the American public, Woodward said that tonight’s event “was the equivalent of the Army-McCarthy hearings.”

Notes:

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Slate

The Historians Take a First Crack at Donald J. Trump

Paul M. Renfro – 52m ago

© Provided by Slate

With the end of each presidency in the 21st century, historian Julian Zelizer has assembled a cast of colleagues to evaluate the outgoing administration. The first two installments in this series focused on George W. Bush (2010) and Barack Obama (2018) and featured essays by Nelson Lichtenstein, Mary Dudziak, Kevin Kruse, and other major names in the historical profession.

In the new volume The Presidency of Donald J. Trump: A First Historical Assessment, Zelizer and more than a dozen other historians offer their insights on the Trump administration. The project captured the former president’s attention last year, after he had begrudgingly left office. Trump requested—and secured—a Zoom meeting with Zelizer and the other authors attached to the project, during which he hoped to “tighten up some of the research” they were conducting. Fortunately, Trump’s attempt at meddling failed. Although the essays included here are fair and thoughtful, they also don’t pull any punches.

They do, however, reveal some of the challenges inherent in the project of what historians call “recent history”—the study of events and processes that have unfolded over the past several years or decades. “Recent history” differs from journalism in its emphasis on historical analysis and context. Because its practitioners want to determine how and why contemporary phenomena came to be, they home in on the linkages, and discontinuities, between the distant past, the more recent past, and the present. And, as historians Claire Potter and Renee Romano explain in a book on the topic, recent history “talks back,” as circumstances change and living subjects, like Trump, vie to control the dominant narrative. Since these scholars are analyzing ongoing developments—and doing it in the rigid format of a published book, no less—some of their assessments are already outdated or, at the very least, incomplete.

This particular “recent history” is even more difficult, given historians’ visceral (yet varied) responses to Trump’s candidacy and presidency. His emergence in 2015 and 2016 raised major philosophical, definitional, and strategic questions within the historical profession. How, and to what extent, many historians wondered, should we “resist” Trumpism? Some historians—including several featured in Zelizer’s new volume—wrote, circulated, and signed online petitions highlighting the existential threat that Trump ostensibly posed to U.S. democracy. Now-familiar names like Heather Cox RichardsonJoanne Freeman, and Kruse became influential public intellectuals during Trump’s term, sharing their historical wisdom with hundreds of thousands of online #Resisters, many of whom believed that Trump and the contemporary GOP were subverting otherwise noble American institutions and traditions. Other academics, coming from the left, criticized historians like Timothy Snyder for their attempts to characterize Trump as a fascist and to frame his popularity as an exceptional phenomenon, rather than a logical outgrowth of racism, capitalism, xenophobia, sexism, and other malign forces that have long defined the American experience.

If this crisis in the historical profession sounds familiar, it’s because it paralleled the reckoning faced by news media organizations struggling to define their role during the Trump years. And because Zelizer’s study extends the analysis provided in contemporaneous journalistic accounts, it occasionally reproduces the reductive partisan framing seen in so much American political reporting. Writing about the state of U.S. political history amid the Tea Party insurgency in 2011, historian Matt Lassiter—who, by the way, contributed a sharp critique of Obama’s drug policies to Zelizer’s 2018 volume—lamented the ways some of his fellow political historians seemed to reinforce the crude “red–blue binaries reflected in the national maps of presidential election returns.” While several of the essays in The Presidency of Donald J. Trump locate the 45th president firmly within the American conservative tradition, few consider in any serious depth the continuities between Trump, his predecessors (from both political parties), and his Democratic successor.

Indeed, despite the rancor and fear it provoked outside of MAGA Nation (and within the historical profession), Trump’s presidency and its immediate aftermath didn’t solely illuminate continuities between the past and present, the historian’s stock in trade; it also revealed tremendous overlap between American liberalism and conservatism. After all, relatively few Democrats objected when Trump called for historically large defense budgets, and in 2020, the party ultimately rallied behind a “safe” candidate—one with a deeply troubling record on foreign policy, race, the criminal legal system, and immigration. With early hopes for a “new FDR” now thoroughly dashed, President Joe Biden’s proposed 2023 budget would further increase military, immigration enforcement, and police spending. He has also fared just as poorly as Trump on COVID-19, while simultaneously perpetuating unspeakably cruel immigrationasylum, and counterterrorism policies. And yet Biden has received a much warmer reception among professional historians. This paradox suggests that scholars of the recent past should pay closer attention to the structural processes and forces—capitalism, carceralism, white supremacy, militarism—that cut across presidential administrations and blur the lines between the nation’s political parties.

That said, The Presidency of Donald J. Trump is an ambitious and compelling book, one that covers a great deal of territory. The contributors grapple with Trump’s record on climate change (Bathsheba Demuth), his posture toward Big Tech (Margaret O’Mara), his foreign policy and attempts at diplomacy (Jeffrey Engel, Daniel C. Kurtzer, James Mann), his mishandling of the pandemic (Merlin Chowkwanyun), his relationship with right-wing media outlets and with conservatism itself (Nicole Hemmer, Zelizer), his investment in white supremacy and exclusionary nationalism (Kathleen Belew, Mae Ngai, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor), his penchant for lying (Angus Burgin), his sexism and its effect on feminist activism (Leandra Zarnow), his support among Latinx voters (Geraldo Cadava), his (surprisingly successful) use of the language of “infrastructure” (Jason Scott Smith), his impeachments (Gregory P. Downs), his hostility toward the FBI and the administrative state (Beverly Gage), and his galvanizing effect on Democrats and the left (Michael Kazin). Several major themes run through many of these chapters: the role of racism and xenophobia in Trump’s rise and (later) his policymaking, the tension between “disruption” and stability in Trump’s rhetoric and approach to governing (or not governing), and the polarization caused or exacerbated by Trump and Trumpism. There’s a lot to chew on here, and the book can sometimes feel like a bit of a grab bag as a result. But that’s to be expected with edited anthologies as expansive and impressive as this one.

Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 looms over the book, just as it continues to loom over all of our lives. However, since most of the anthology was probably finalized last fall—as the delta wave ravaged the country and before omicron unleashed its wrath—the book too often betrays the very 2021 notion that the worst is behind us. At times, the authors subtly relegate to the past the mass death and misery wrought by the pandemic. The book is dedicated, for example, to “all the people whose lives were lost during the COVID-19 pandemic,” even though hundreds of people continue to die from the illness in the U.S. daily. Zelizer and contributors Chowkwanyun and Hemmer, among others, rightly condemn former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and other Republicans for praising Trump “[d]espite a devastating pandemic that left more than a half million people dead.” But now that COVID-19 has claimed more than 1 million lives in the U.S. alone, the narrow focus on Trump and his disciples feels inadequate. More people have died of COVID under Biden than under Trump.

The volume’s treatment of COVID, which was not even “recent history” at the time of the book’s writing, shows how an analytical approach that stresses partisan and ideological cleavages can obscure continuities between the nation’s major political parties. Most of the authors featured here consider Trump to be a product of the modern Republican Party and conservative movement. Zelizer, for one, calls Trump “the culmination of more than three decades in the GOP’s evolution.” In his view—which reflects the historical profession’s dominant interpretation of the trajectory of U.S. conservatism, at least until recently—the midcentury Republican Party beat back the far-right challenges posed by Barry Goldwater and “veer[ed] toward the middle,” where the votes supposedly were. Only with Reagan’s capture of the party in the 1980s, the story goes, did the shift rightward (in both political parties) begin in earnest. “Powerful Democrats facilitated this rightward drift” in American politics “by redefining their agenda within the parameters Reagan had set,” Zelizer contends. “Reagan’s political success provoked imitation,” Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor writes in her chapter. “Casting about as their electoral fortunes continued to diminish, the leadership of the Democratic Party began adapting to the prevailing antiwelfare and pro-criminal justice system and policing logics.” Michael Kazin strikes similar notes, pinning the Democrats’ move rightward on the electoral successes of Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

These characterizations miss critical transformations and tensions within liberalism before Reagan’s presidency and the supposed fall of the New Deal order. Historians such as Lily Geismer and Brent Cebul have traced the liberal and Democratic embrace of the so-called new economy (driven by the real estate, financial, and tech sectors), “market-based” solutions to social problems, and professional-class voters back to at least the 1960s and 1970s. After all, Jimmy Carter, despite his latter-day iconic status on the left (solar panels on the White House!), helped usher in the neoliberal age through deregulation and supply-side economics, and the military-industrial complex was very much a New Deal liberal project. Naomi MurakawaElizabeth Hinton, and Heather Schoenfeld have also shown that liberal reform efforts in the mid-20th century laid the physical and intellectual groundwork for racialized mass incarceration. Rather than being just a response to the so-called Reagan Revolution, Democrats’ and liberals’ rightward lurch in the late 20th century resulted from contradictions within liberalism itself and from broad structural processes in the national and global economies.

This interpretive disagreement notwithstanding, The Presidency of Donald J. Trump is essential reading for historians of the United States and anyone who hopes to understand, on a more fundamental level, the antecedents to and potential consequences of the Trump years. All of the essays here are sharp and incisive, although standouts include Angus Burgin’s chapter on the “ongoing epistemological crisis” triggered by Trump, Nicole Hemmer’s exploration of the right-wing media ecosystem in the Trump era, Kathleen Belew’s examination of white power rhetoric and organizing during the Age of Trump, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s meditation on the fall of racial “colorblindness” and the reemergence of a viable left wing in American politics. As challenging as the study of the recent past can be, these four essays—and, indeed, this entire volume—demonstrate that it is a vital project, especially in this moment of national and global uncertainty. Scholars and other commentators must continue to undertake this kind of work—hopefully concentrating more on state power, political culture, and political economy and less on the reductive red–blue, conservative–liberal paradigms that inform (and inhibit) far too much political analysis.

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