THE TIGHTENING NOOSE:

Star witness Michael Cohen says Trump was intimately involved in all aspects of hush money scheme (MICHAEL R. SISAK, JILL COLVIN, ERIC TUCKER AND JAKE OFFENHARTZ, May 13, 2024, NY Times)


“We need to stop this from getting out,” Cohen quoted Trump as telling him in reference to porn actor Stormy Daniels’ account of a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier. The then-candidate was especially anxious about how the story would affect his standing with female voters.

A similar episode occurred when Cohen alerted Trump that a Playboy model was alleging that she and Trump had an extramarital affair. “Make sure it doesn’t get released,” was Cohen’s message to Trump, the lawyer said. The woman, Karen McDougal, was paid $150,000 in an arrangement that was made after Trump received a “complete and total update on everything that transpired.”

“What I was doing, I was doing at the direction of and benefit of Mr. Trump,” Cohen testified.

IT’S A rico CASE:

THE COURTROOM(S) CAMPAIGN (Politico 4/25/24)

Over the course of roughly 24 hours since yesterday morning, Trump …

… was revealed as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the “fake electors” scheme in Michigan during a court proceeding;

… was identified as “unindicted co-conspirator 1” in a slate of new grand jury indictments over Arizona’s “fake electors” scheme that saw his former attorney RUDY GIULIANI and former White House chief of staff MARK MEADOWS both charged;

… will be the subject of a Supreme Court case today as the justices hear oral arguments over his claims of immunity from criminal prosecution stemming from his attempts to overturn the 2020 election;

… will return to a Manhattan courtroom for another day of testimony from former National Enquirer chief DAVID PECKER in his criminal trial for alleged election interference and business fraud; and

… could see the judge in that case, JUAN MERCHAN, rule on whether he violated a gag order.

JUST WARMING UP:

‘It can happen again’: Judge set to preside over Trump trial delivers her toughest Jan. 6 sentence to date (KYLE CHENEY, 04/19/2024, Politico)

Chutkan, who is in line to preside over the criminal trial of Donald Trump for his bid to subvert the 2020 election, emphasized her belief that the Jan. 6 mob attack was “close to as serious a crisis as this nation has ever faced.” She lauded officers who, though outnumbered and ill-equipped, fought to protect the building.

“They faced horrendous circumstances. They were assaulted, spat on, beaten, kicked, gassed,” Chutkan said. “They are patriots.”

Chutkan also worried that the conditions that caused Jan. 6 still exist.

“It can happen again,” the Obama-appointed judge said. “Extremism is alive and well in this country. Threats of violence continue unabated.”

THE FUTURE OF ALL POLICIES IS ALWAYS THE PAST OF W:

Trump’s covid response was even worse than you remember: In a sane country, it would disqualify him from ever again holding office (STEPHEN ROBINSON, APR 19, 2024, Public Notice)


The first recorded case of covid in the US was in January 2020. A few weeks later Judd Legum at Popular Information posted on Twitter, “I feel like more people should be talking about the fact that Trump fired the entire pandemic response team two years ago and then didn’t replace them.”

Indeed, the Trump administration gutted the infectious disease defense infrastructure through shortsighted cost-cutting measures starting in 2018 — a year after passing a trillion-dollar tax giveaway for his billionaire buddies. The administration specifically canned the executive branch team that would’ve coordinated a response.

Trump then spent most of February 2020 minimizing covid’s threat. He called the coronavirus Democrats’ “new hoax” at a campaign rally in South Carolina. By April, when everything was going to hell, he lamented that the pandemic was “something that nobody expected.” However, former President George W. Bush had warned in 2005 that “if we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare.” Bush compared a pandemic to a forest fire: “If caught early it might be extinguished with limited damage. If allowed to smolder, undetected, it can grow to an inferno that can spread quickly beyond our ability to control it.”

Bush paved the way for pandemic planning, which the Obama administration continued. Only Trump was simultaneously arrogant and stupid enough to demolish what his predecessors had built.

RACISM IS THE TRUMP BRAND:

Trump says he’s long worked ‘hand in hand’ with Black people. Let’s review. (Glenn Kessler, February 27, 2024, Washington Post)

You could begin the story in the 1950s, when Trump’s father, Fred, became the subject of a protest song, “Old Man Trump,” written by one of his tenants, folk singer Woody Guthrie, who objected to the all-White environs of his apartment complex. “I suppose that Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate he stirred up in that bloodpot of human hearts when he drawed that color line here at his Beach Haven family project … Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower / Where no black folks come to roam,” the lyrics go.


Trump’s first appearance in the New York Times was under the headline “Major Landlord Accused of Antiblack Bias in City.” The front-page article detailed how the Justice Department had brought suit in federal court against Trump and his father, charging them with violating the 1968 Fair Housing Act (another LBJ bill that helped Black people) in the operation of 39 buildings through their Trump Management Corporation. The city Human Rights Commission had tested what would happen if Black and White people tried to rent the same Trump apartments — and discovered White people could easily get a rental but Black people were told nothing was available. A DOJ subpoena revealed that Black applications were marked with a “C,” for “colored.”

Donald Trump, then 27, took the lead in defending the case and told the Times that the charges “are absolutely ridiculous.” He added: “We never have discriminated and we never would.” The Trump Management Corporation turned around and sued the U.S. government right back.

Elyse Goldweber, a Justice Department lawyer who brought the suit, recalled in 2019 that Trump remarked to her during a coffee break: “You know, you don’t want to live with them either.”

ALWAYS BET ON THE dEEP sTATE:

Donald Trump’s Cash Crunch Just Got Much, Much Worse (Roger Sollenberger, Feb. 20, 2024, Daily Beast)

On Tuesday, Trump’s “Save America” leadership political action committee reported raising just $8,508 from donors in the entire month of January, while spending about $3.9 million, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission.


Nearly $3 million of that overall spending total was used for one purpose: to pay lawyers.

At the same time, the Trump campaign itself reported a net loss of more than $2.6 million for the month of January. It raised about $8.8 million while spending around $11.5 million, according to a separate filing made public on Tuesday.

The filings reveal that Trump is continuing to burn through his donors’ funds as he struggles to feed two massive cash drains—astronomical legal bills stemming from numerous civil cases and four criminal indictments, plus the costs of a national presidential campaign.

WHEN YOU STARE INTO THE ABYSS, DONALD LOOKS BACK:

The Mass Psychology of Trumpism (Dan P. McAdams, 2/20/24, New/Lines)

Trump’s enduring appeal stems from the perception — his own and others’ — that he is not a person. In the minds of millions, Trump is more than a person. And he is less than a person, too.

In 1962, a prominent Harvard psychologist published a scholarly paper titled “The Personality and Career of Satan.” Henry A. Murray examined how, for over 2,000 years, Western theologians and other writers have depicted the mythical figure of Satan, projecting onto him human traits perennially designated as evil.

It is worth noting that Murray’s characterization of Satan bears an uncanny resemblance to the psychological portrait of Trump painted by many psychologists today. A malignant narcissism rages at the core of Satan’s personality. Cast out of heaven for his overmastering pride, Satan wants to be God, resents the fact that he is not God and insists that his supreme worth entitles him to privileges that nobody else should enjoy while undergirding his reign as sovereign of the mortal world below. Wholly self-centered, cruel, vindictive and devoid of compassion and empathy, Satan nonetheless possesses substantial charisma and charm. Completely contractual in his approach to interpersonal relationships, he has perfected the art of the deal, as when, in the Gospel of Luke, Satan tempts Jesus with earthly powers and riches in return for his adulation: “If thou will therefore worship me, all shall be thine.”

Situated in a middle ground between God and human beings, Satan is a liminal figure. He is like a person but not quite a person. For one, he is gifted with superhuman powers of the sort, Murray writes, that children have always imagined they might possess in the furthest reaches of their wish-fulfilling fantasies. But he does not possess certain qualities that adults especially value and recognize as part of the human condition. He lacks wisdom, for example, and love. He is not troubled by a complex inner life, by the doubts, ambivalences and moral quandaries that routinely run through the consciousness of mature humans. He is instead like the modern conception of a superhero. Satan is one-dimensional and mythic, an idealized personification, rather than a fully articulated person.

Donald Trump sees himself in the same way. While Trump insists that he is a force for good rather than evil, he truly perceives himself to be qualitatively different from the rest of humankind. He has often compared himself to a superhero. He has famously described himself as a “stable genius” who has never made a mistake. He is not lying when he makes these outrageous claims, for Trump truly believes them to be true, just as he believes he won the 2020 election.

At the same time, Trump is incapable of describing an inner psychological life or of identifying traces of reflection, emotional nuance, doubt or fallibility. Even though he talks about himself all the time, Trump has never been able to explain his inner world or to narrate stories about how he has come to be the person he is, as frustrated interviewers and biographers have repeatedly noted.

In my book “The Strange Case of Donald J. Trump: A Psychological Reckoning” (2020), I argue that Trump lacks a narrative understanding of himself in time. A well-established line of psychological research shows that human personhood is tied up with narrative and storytelling. People understand their lives as narratives evolving over time. But Trump is the curious exception, in that there seems to be very little by way of a story in his head about who he is and how he came to be. He is instead what I call “the episodic man,” living outside of time in the eternal moment, fighting in the here and now to win the battle at hand, episode by episode, day by day. At the center of Trump’s personality lies a narrative vacuum, the space where the self-defining life story should be but never was. As such, Trump is rarely introspective, retrospective or prospective. There is no depth, no past and no future.

Currently reading Ian Kershaw’s Hitler bio and the parallels are truly striking, especially the core hollowness of both men, which they fill up with hate.

WHERE’S SHERMAN WHEN WE NEED HIM:

Donald Trump and the Lost Cause (Angie Maxwell, March 30, 2016, VQR)

Southern whiteness is not just about race. Yes, that is how it started. But as Southern whites faced the changing twentieth century, they became the “other” or foil to American identity. Each time the criticism poured in, they defined themselves in opposition to a growing pantheon of enemies. Southern whiteness expands beyond racial identity and supremacy, encapsulating rigid stances on religion, education, the role of government, the view of art, an opposition to science and expertise and immigrants and feminism, and any other topic that comes under attack. This ideological web of inseparable strands envelops a community and covers everything, and it is easily (and intentionally by Donald Trump) snagged.

The key environmental conditions (if we learn from Adler’s pattern again) that made it more likely, in the wake of such criticism, for an individual to develop an inferiority complex were poverty, lack of education, and authoritarian religion. The Southern white triptych or trap. For those of us who were born here or have spent our lives in the South, other than the sheer distinctive levels of violence, the trap remains the most painful dynamic to witness. The need to maintain white supremacy and patriarchy at all costs has, indeed, cost us almost everything. The price to maintain segregation, both legal and cultural, is limited access to and the denouncement of education. The price to maintain white economic power is the proliferation of pay-day lenders and right-to-work laws and the vilification of the “undeserving” on welfare and food stamps. The price to maintain male authority is the failure of almost all Southern states to ratify women’s suffrage in the 1920s (though they did so symbolically decades later, including Mississippi finally in 1984) or the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and 1980s (renewed efforts failed in both Virginia and Arkansas just last year) and the wholesale demonization of feminism. The price to maintain fundamentalist Christian values includes the banning of textbooks, the denigration of non-Christians and of science in general. The price is so high that Southern states rank forty-eighth and forty-ninth and fiftieth time and again on almost every measure that matters to quality of life. And those rankings serve as alarms as well, and the whole thing becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, an inescapable trap laid by the very folks it ensnares.

So public criticism for many white Southerners is constant and damaging and creates a defensive and extreme response that only causes more damage. In-migration to the South has diluted this community, but for many whites who self-identify as Southern, the inferiority complex is alive and well. We know from our own academic polling that whites who claim a Southern identity score significantly higher than those who do not on scales measuring racism, sexism, and fundamentalism. Whites who claim a Southern identity prove to be more decisive on public-policy issues, with significantly fewer respondents choosing a neutral or independent stance on health-care reform or gay marriage or abortion or affirmative action. In his letter to Life magazine in 1956, William Faulkner warned of this Southern white penchant for polarization. In the battle over integration, Faulkner questioned, “Where will we go, if the middle becomes untenable? If we have to vacate it in order to keep from being trampled?” They run to the right.

So George Wallace’s mantra of “You’re either for it or you’re against it” vibrates on a frequency that white Southerners recognize. It’s a team rally cry, sport-like with signs and tailgates. Even the pushed-up primary in the South was given a sports-conference moniker—SEC. Trump is the brashy, defiant, absolutist celebrity coach. The more he and his supporters are criticized, the more entrenched they become. And his fans want nothing less than a national championship.

They, of course, are not the only Americans who hear that dog whistle. Perhaps there is something to the “southernization of America” described by both Peter Applebome and John Egerton several years ago. NASCAR and country music and the spread of the Southern Baptist denomination across the country follow the American defeat of its own war in Vietnam. Whatever the reason, politicians learned over the last four decades that it is acceptable, even welcomed, to blow the dog whistles of racism and sexism and fundamentalism harder and louder in the South, and when they do the sound reverberates throughout the country. For white Southerners, the sounds are hard to distinguish; the battle for whiteness and patriarchy and church over state are compounded so fully that few can untie the knots in their own hearts and minds.

But outside of the region, in the other states that Trump has won—Illinois and Michigan and Nevada and New Hampshire—he need only strike one of these chords among voters. Maybe immigration is fueling nativism in one community, maybe the legalization of gay marriage has deeply upset another. Maybe some don’t want a female president. After all, white Southerners aren’t the only people who feel down and out or who feel discriminated against, which is clear in the simultaneous, yet separate, national rise of men’s rights movements (mostly notably in the online “Manosphere”), EEOC claims of reverse discrimination, and the belief (among 56 percent of Republicans) in a “war on Christmas.” Trump’s Southern strategy turns out to be less about geography and more about identity. And many want to go back to an America in which people like them run the show.

MAGA is just Identitarianism for white men. The Right is theb Left.

VLAD’S GIMP:

Trump suggests he’d disregard NATO treaty, urge Russian attacks on allies (Marianne LeVine, February 10, 2024, Washington Post)


“One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said, ‘Well, sir, if we don’t pay and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?,’” Trump said during a rally at Coastal Carolina University. “I said, ‘You didn’t pay. You’re delinquent.’ He said, ‘Yes, let’s say that happened.’ No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.”

JUST THE FACTS:

Congress has already disqualified Trump from the ballot (Tristan Snell, February 8, 2024, CNN)

Those votes came in the second impeachment of Trump, in January and February of 2021, in which majorities of both the House and the Senate backed an article of impeachment against Trump for “incitement of insurrection.”

This was a finding of fact, by majorities of our elected representatives, after a full public trial in which Trump was able to mount a defense — and it should be deemed persuasive, if not conclusive, in answering the factual questions before the Supreme Court. Indeed, for the more right-wing justices, who are often fond of pontificating that courts should not make policy judgments and should instead defer to legislatures, one would think that such a clear public pronouncement from Congress on Trump’s engagement in insurrection would be a compelling precedent.


To be clear, the 14th Amendment does not actually require anyone to have voted to disqualify an insurrectionist, whether that’s a legislature or a jury. It certainly does not require a conviction, as some have tried to argue (and such bastardization of the plain language of a constitutional provision is exactly the opposite of what conservatives normally preach).

Legally, the insurrectionist is disqualified the moment he engages in insurrection.